Monthly Archives: April 2014

Short Story: Gay Paris

Photo Credit: Twitchphoto via Compfight cc  (altered)

Photo Credit: Twitchphoto via Compfight cc (altered)

Gay Paris

 

The wind whipped into the compartment. Passengers screamed as papers ripped themselves out of their hands and briefcases and bags and hats tumbled along with the rushing air, joining tumbling books and empty cups and expensive fur stoles in a whirling dance. I shattered the remains of the window and heaved half my body through. An attendant grabbed me by the foot, but I kicked him in the face. The momentum propelled me out the window and I plunged downward through the sky.

I slung the parachute over my back, fumbling with the harness while struggling to keep it from flying out of my grip. It worked itself free of one shoulder and I barely caught it before it absconded into the blue yonder. It probably would have been smarter to put this on before I had jumped through the window, but I might not have fit that way. Besides, I like to work on the fly. Or rather, on the fall.

I managed to strap on the pack and pull the ripcord. As soon as I was descending at a safe speed and my heart rate had a chance to slow, the view of the city strangling the Seine was actually quite beautiful.

I was right on course to land in a lovely little park, but the wind had other ideas and I descended on a church spire instead. I guess it was a spiritually uplifting experience.

Apparently I had attracted a lot of attention, because a large crowd of people were pointing and shouting, but I couldn’t be sure because they shouted in French and pointed in French too, of course, and they might just have been admiring the architecture for all I knew.

Pretty soon I started hearing sirens. I was surprised the sirens didn’t siren in French, but I guess you can’t have everything. Wait, is siren a verb?

After the fire department got me down from the spire, the police started asking me questions. I tried to communicate yo no hablo francés by gesture, but that got us nowhere. I tried to translate his French—something, I thought, about passing harbors or possibly wine, and maybe something about a crazy, stupid derriere—but one year in high school Francais didn’t cut it.

I was taken downtown, talked to someone who spoke English, I was asked if I had a passport, I said No, and all said and done I ended up in a cell.

And as the French say, voilà! A holiday in Paris without having to pay for reservations.

The End

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Categories: Fun, Short Stories | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

What Writers Do

 

 

Yes, I’m actually blogging one of these. I found it floating around amidst similar others and singled it out as my favorite. Jokes that mock the sanity and lifestyle of a writer are actually reassuring and therapeutic, and relieves a lot of the tension that comes with writing. When the world pokes fun at what I do, it makes me feel less guilty about what I do to the world in my stories.

The disturbing thing is that the man in the upper right-hand corner has my face.

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What jokes or memes mocking writers made you laugh recently?

Categories: Fun | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

On Grief, Fear, and Death

Recently, my pet rabbit died. It’s times like these, when death is thrust upon us at close quarters, that we’re forced to stop and consider the impermanence of life. We can’t go on with the farce or hide behind illusions as blissfully when we’re faced directly with the reality of a future end to what we recognize as our existence.

Death is out there. You can’t run from it, in the end you won’t escape it. You can only live your life in denial, fear, or acceptance.

 

Why Fear?

I’m a murder mystery novelist. I write about death all the time. But I’ve never lost someone to death; maybe I don’t really understand it. Maybe I’ve never been hit hard enough by it personally. But I understand loss. Everyone does to a certain extent. We all lose someone.

Photo Credit: h.koppdelaney via Compfight cc  (altered)

Photo Credit:h.koppdelaneyviaCompfight cc(altered)

To be honest, I never really thought that mourning for the dead makes much sense. Death is a natural part of life, nothing to be afraid of, nothing to grieve for. The dead should be honored, their passing celebrated.

Grieve instead for the newborn. The dead are much safer, and happier, than the living.

In an unnatural or untimely death, when someone dies before they have the time to give all that they can, I can see a sense of tragedy because of what the world lost. But I still can’t move myself to pity for someone who has as I believe very really gone on to a better place. That trite phrase isn’t just a word of comfort, it’s the truth. I don’t care what your beliefs are; even science, in its limited scope, is beginning to get an inkling of the realities of that truth.

I’m all for paying respects to the dead, but not if it means a lot of somber, unnecessary grief that typifies death as something frightening, tragic, or otherwise bad, when it’s plain for anyone who looks to see that it’s on the contrary something quite good. I respect the dead for what they give to this world, and what they’re now giving to a greater one.

To me, the only sadness I can see in death is loss.

Why Mourn?

If someone you love has died, then of course you understand loss. But I’m here to tell you, even if it’s not what you want to hear, that mourning for someone’s passing is on the whole more selfish than it is an act of love.

Don’t get me wrong. I sympathize with the emotions of losing someone to death, even though I haven’t experienced them per se. And of course I can understand why anyone would wish their late loved ones were still with them. But believe me when I say that up there somewhere, burning brightly amongst the stars, there’s surely a soul looking down and mourning your life. They miss you as much as you miss them. But they’re not wishing they were alive again, they’re wishing that you were dead with them. Now they know by experience how much better “death,” as we crudely put it, really is.

If you really love someone you’ve lost, hard as it may seem, just letting go of your own longing for them and being happy for them where they are now, that’s love, that’s the secret of appreciating death.

People die, it’s a part of nature, it’s a part of growth. They’re becoming something more, something higher. You would regret that?

To Die, to Sleep

Photo Credit: wakalani via Compfight cc  (altered)

Photo Credit: wakalani via Compfight cc (altered)

Last Halloween in Crooked Ways I published a quirky little piece called Pons ad Sapientium, that is, “The Bridge to Wisdom.” I feel that’s the best way to describe death, at least as I see it. I’m going to borrow a few paragraphs out of the mouth of my protagonist, because I can think of no better explanation:

“Death is a beautiful thing,” I continued. “It happens to us all. If you’re afraid to die, your life can’t be worth much. You must not be living it to the fullest.”

“And that would be?” she prompted.

“Spending life looking to something higher than it.” I pulled her back to the path and led her to a statue of an angel who stood in a silent vigil over a grave. She gazed down with a soft, compassionate face, frozen forever in stone. “Look at her. She’s not bleak, is she? A little mossy maybe, a little dirty, but that just makes her venerable. Sleep here, and the angels watch over you. You might be one of them in your dreams, even.” I kneeled down to read the engraving. “‘Jennifer.’ I can’t even make out the rest. Could be one of those names with fourteen consonants and two vowels. She probably choked to death on her food while trying to pronounce her name.”

I rose and condensed the whole cemetery with a sweeping gesture. “They’re not less than we are, they’re something more. They have a lot to teach us if we only listen. They’ve found what we don’t have–the nirvana we’re not meant to live to see. We have to die to find it. They’ve all forgone petty illusions, letting go of earthly vacuities, to reach for something real and boundless and sublime. What good is this transient vanity that is reality, when we could have eternity? Every body in every coffin has embraced something greater, something more permanent, something more–beautiful.” I looked at her and appealed, “You see it, don’t you?”

She smiled brightly, a little sheepishly. “Yes, I do. I’m sorry I didn’t before.”

We proceeded along the path, and I proceeded along my lecture. “They’ve only shuffled off their mortal coils. ‘To die, to sleep; to sleep: perchance to dream’ . . . yes, ‘ay, there’s the rub; for in that sleep of death what dreams may come when we have shuffled off this mortal coil, must give us pause: there’s the respect that makes calamity of so long life.’ Amen. Maybe that’s why we fear death. Because it’s a step into the unknown, the most potent of fears. But it’s still childish. Are we afraid to sleep at night because we dread our dreams? Are dreams anything to be afraid of? Dreams are beautiful things! Why should we waste the day being afraid of the night?

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What do you think? How do you feel about death and loss, and how do you deal with it?

Categories: Imagining a Better World | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

An Easter Musing

A big magic bunny that fills baskets with candy and toys, hiding eggs for the little kiddies to find . . . culture sure evolves in mysterious ways. It might have seemed fun when we were naive children with nothing better to do or think about, but nowadays, we’re pretty disillusioned to the whole charade, right? It’s just another holiday perfected by the American dream, a chance to capitalize on emotions, put a price on the priceless, and celebrate consumerism with a mass orgy glorified by a spiritual family label.

The magic’s gone.

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I don’t have any kids, but I do have a family, and there are little ones. So I help hide a few green eggs in the bushes, some red and blue among the flowers, a few yellow ones up the trees where they’ll never be able to reach them, if they ever even look up and see them. Then I find a drink, kick back in a detached languor and watch the kids hunt, race past a few dozen well-hidden eggs to go for the one obvious one, laughing, excited, ignorant to the bleak mediocrity. It’s disgusting, really.

No, not the kids. Me.

Actually, not me, but that picture of soulless, jaded indifference. That supercilious attitude of “maturity.” The magic’s gone because we’ve ousted it. We’ve pushed it away. There’s no room for magic in the harsh realities of an adult’s world.

Well, actually, there is. Every now and then.

Seeing Easter with a Child’s Eyes

In my family we’ve made a tradition. We gathered all the plastic eggs we could get our hands on and after the adults hid them for the kids, I spent two hours following the little ones around on their epic quest of discovery. I’d give hints, or even riddles when I could think of them, and sometimes I’d step in front of a half-concealed egg and play innocent until a kid finally caught me and got behind me. When all the eggs were found, or at any rate nearly all, then the best part came: the kids hid the eggs, and the adults looked.

Photo Credit: partymonstrrrr via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: partymonstrrrr via Compfight cc

See, it’s not about finding the eggs. It’s about finding and recovering the thrill of the game, the sparkling imagination of childhood that made mountains out of molehills and golden eggs out of plastic. It’s about rediscovering the fun, the excitement, the joy, the enchantment. It’s about creating memories, capturing a warm-fuzzy feeling that will stick with us all even when the kids have grown up and forgotten what egg hunts were like, just like I nearly did there.

Rediscovering the Wonder

Halloween, Christmas, Easter—they’re all the same. They’ve all been distorted, and we’ve lost sight of the enchantment. We’ve forgotten why holidays meant so much to us when we were kids. We’ve lost our sense of wonder. Comes with age, I suppose.

So we can sit around and gripe about how holidays are being corrupted by consumerism, or we can do something about it

We can teach, nay, show, the next generations that there’s still magic, that there’s still wonder and enchantment in the special moments. We can give them memories that are founded on a lot more than toys and candy. They’re waiting for us to prove to them that holidays aren’t just for children, and I think a lot of us could stand to remember that, too.

Maybe they won’t remember the egg hunt; maybe the memories will fade. They might forget what we did for them, but they’ll never forget how we made them feel.

 

Categories: Imagining a Better World | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Reblog: Let’s be still

( I’d only like to add this: Marriage is much more than a longing for security and permanence. It’s nothing so fleeting and deceptive–only it’s beginning to become that.

What I’m about to say is something that a lot of people don’t believe. It’s a very controversial statement and a lot of people are going to hate me for saying it. But it’s something I do believe needs to be said.

Marriage is important.

The seasons pass away, and the world around us “changes and fails,” and our lives undergo alterations. We become different people. But through it all, day after day, season after season, the sun still shines, the moon is still there. Summer or winter, there is still day, there is still night. There will be clouds that cover the light–but the light is still there.

That’s what marriage is really about. It’s the permanence amidst change. You are the one constant in your own life; the person you marry should be the person you can rely on as that second constant. You can’t choose who you love, but it’s your choice who you marry. That person should be your sun and your moon.

The words “through sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer, for as long as we both shall live, till death do we part,” still matter. There’s a gravity in those words, and they shouldn’t be spoken unless you mean them. Your spouse should be someone you can rely on, and someone who can look to you as their sun and moon.

Marrying someone you can’t trust, no matter how much you may love them, is asking for your tree, “ancient and huge,” to fall and decay. Don’t look for permanence where it can’t be found. Don’t pretend it’s there when it’s not. Be still. Wait for it.

That said, this is a beautiful article well worth reading. )

candidkay

I was probably all of six years old, crying, as my mother packed her suitcase. She was going to her uncle’s funeral and leaving me home for a few days. I cried and begged to go, not so much because the funeral interested me but because I wanted my mother. I wanted permanence. Her presence, like a rock, always there.

I held on to a soooooo-over relationship in my twenties, one that didn’t really even make me happy anymore. Not so much because I couldn’t live without this man (obviously I could, I’m still kicking) but because I had engraved in my mind that he was IT. And I wanted the permanence of his presence, of that surety.

I watch friends hold on to marriages because of this same longing for something that lasts. Doesn’t matter if he drinks, does drugs, loses the family savings, kills her with his sarcasm…

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Categories: Imagining a Better World | 3 Comments

Give and Thou Shalt Receive: But What Do You Have to Give?

Dear writers,

 

The key to success in this world is generosity. It stands to reason, it’s common sense, and if you don’t know it, learn it: The more you give, the more you receive. If you’re a writer or a blogger or just any other kind of breather, then you’re alive, and that means you have something to give. But one of my personal struggles has been wondering, What do I have to give?

I have stories. Yeah, I love to write stories, and I love to give them to the world, and they’re fun to blog sometimes, but the truth is this: That’s not enough. I’m not going to get thousands of followers who buy my books by blogging short stories.

If I want to receive followers, I have to give something meaningful to them, earn their trust and make them feel that reading my books will be worth their time, and then I will receive more readers to whom I will be able to give the stories I have to tell: it’s a win-win in the end, but it’s a lot of work for me on the way. I know that, that’s what I signed up for and that’s why I’m here.

But what can I offer you, and all the people out there, that would be meaningful, that would earn your trust and respect? That’s the question. That’s the question you might be struggling with, too:

 

What Do You Have to Give?

Photo Credit: Powerhouse Museum via Compfight cc (altered)

Photo Credit: Powerhouse Museum via Compfight cc (altered)

You’re just a writer. You’ve led a simple, unexciting, unassuming life. That’s probably why you’re a writer. You’re not a specialist in life coaching or social media marketing, you haven’t traveled all over the world or gone through traumatic near-fatal experiences. You’re just—you.

You don’t have to be you when you write. That’s why you’re a writer. When you write, you can transcend your own life. When you’re blogging, you have to draw from your own life and your own experiences, and heck . . . what do you really know?

We’ve actually mentioned an answer twice now. “That’s why you’re a writer.”

Right? You know what makes you a writer. You know what inspires you. You know what makes you who you are. You know the dark, secret places of your own heart. You know human emotion because you’re a human and you’ve felt emotion

You know the truth about yourself. But your readers don’t.

 

What Do Your Readers Need?

That’s the important thing to remember here. It’s not about you. It’s about them.

What they need from you is you. Just—you. Plain, simple, unexciting, unassuming, you. Not the expert knowledge you wish you had, they don’t need that. They just need the real you.

They need the truth. They need to know who you are inside. I don’t give a cow’s belch for a writer’s alphabet-soup degrees or their professional expertise. They’re artists, and what real readers want to know is them.

Real readers want to know who you are.

You might be afraid of opening yourself up: don’t be. You tell the truth behind the mask of fiction; take the mask off, take courage, and be honest. Your readers will respect you for it.

You might be afraid of wasting your reader’s time with your sob stories: don’t be. Some readers won’t care, it’s true. So they’ll move on. But there are others who won’t. There are others who will be touched.

Because you’ve lived your life, and that’s the story you have to tell. That’s what will inspire people. Maybe you’ve gone through a situation similar to theirs, and you have some practical wisdom to impart, or maybe a message of hope. Maybe it’s just the words “you’re not alone.”

And that’s just it. You’re not alone. Whatever you’ve gone through—and everyone has gone through something—someone else is going through right now and thinking they’re the only one. They’re waiting for you to show them that they’re not. They’re waiting for you to tell them they’re not alone, that others have been through this and that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.

That’s what writing about. It’s about telling a story so someone somewhere, someday, will read it and say, “Look what they did. Look what they knew. Look what they learned. They went through exactly what I’m going through now. They lived.” And in that there’s hope; in the knowledge that someone before us went through life and survived it.

Look back on your life to a time when you were crying out to someone and there was no answer. Reach out to that person now and answer them. You may be surprised how many people are waiting to hear your voice.

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Do you have an important story to share with the world? Have you recently shared one on your blog or written a book about it? Share with me, do a little plugging!

Categories: Imagining a Better World, Writing Passion | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Philosophia Venereum: Speculum Pulchritudine

Speculum Pulchritudine

Smiles are the foundation of beauty.”

— Edgar Rice Burroughs

 

“You know,” she said suddenly, “your grandmother says I have your smile. And she’s not the first, Sarah’s told me the same thing.”

“I hope you thank them both on my behalf?”

“On both our be—behalfs? Or is it behalves? Anyway, I was complimented too, you know.”

“Complimented? That’s like saying you’re as cute as a bug, which is something my grandmother would say.”

She gave a jingling laugh. “She has. What’s your point?”

“Well, it may sound sweet, but when’s the last time you saw a cute bug?”

“Are you saying it wasn’t a compliment?”

“I’m sure she meant it like one, but she might as well have told you that you have a smile like a warthog.”

Photo Credit: Jack Fussell via Compfight cc  (altered)

Photo Credit: Jack Fussell via Compfight cc (altered)

“You don’t think our smiles look anything alike?”“Were that my smile were half as marvelous as thine!”

“I thought it was a sweet thing to say.”

“Oh, it was! And don’t think I’m not honored that my grandmother thinks my smile looks anything like yours. It’s probaly the highest compliment I’ve ever received. And I do think I will agree, insofar as our smiles are structurally, physically, similar.”

“Then what makes them so different?”

We came upon a bench and she suggested we sit. The bench gave us a perfect vantage point to admire the gilded trees; even the streets which seemed to be paved with gold. The world had become a reflection of the sun’s light, shining like the treasure trove it is.

There was a brief pause as we sat, and the world seemed hushed for a moment, bracing itself, like she was, for my answer. I turned to her, and she turned to me, and the corners of her lips twitched up, and her eyes sparkled.

“And that, that exactly,” I said, framing her face with my hands, “is the difference. That’s the difference between our smiles. Do you want to know something? You can’t see yourself, except in mirrors, so you’ve probably never noticed it; and I doubt if most eyes would notice it, anyway, and so probably you’ve never heard it. You never smile.”

She tilted her head questioningly, but said nothing, waiting for me to go on.

“And that’s the difference! That’s the secret. You never smile. Me, I smile all the time. I can’t help myself. But you—never. You’ve looked at me several times today, but you didn’t smile once. Not once. No. Every time you glowed.

“Your face sort of contracts, and each of the features gathers close to the center with the others to enjoy one another’s company. And then your eyes . . . how can I describe it? They brighten, they shine, they twinkle; they narrow, they wrinkle; they quiver, and—vibrate. And most amazingly, this incredible expression of joy—so far above anything as base as a smile—doesn’t even involve any movement of your lips! Not always. Your lips don’t always glow with the rest of your face. They’ll just tighten and bend up, but they won’t glow. When they do—when they part and widen in what is known to the vulgar tongue as a smile—they open on an absolute wonderland of euphoria and delight, through a portal that reveals to the humble human eye all the beauties to be found within a glorious paradise where love alone can tread. Like a curtain opening on a fantastic play with a story you wish were real but can’t believe it could be.”

She threw her head back and laughed, a high-ringing sound like a wind chime. I just watched in admiration. You should have seen how she glowed.

If I ever commit the sin of saying that she could stoop to something as crude as a “smile,” it is only for the sake of brevity, because the English language doesn’t have a better suited word. Even glowed doesn’t qute capture it. I can’t use an entire paragraph to describe it every time she glows, mainly because the majority of this barbaric “modern civilization” is tragically revolted by the smallest degree of beautiful language. If you are one of these philistines, then please, bear with me a little longer.

When she stopped laughing and glowed at me I said, “You find it funny?”
“I just wish I was half as beautiful as your words,” she replied.

“But you’re not,” I agreed, “because you’re ten times as beautiful.”

She just shook her head, glowing.

“And I am blessed to be a witness to it, and I am honored that my grandmother thinks I bear a resemblance to you. You know, the more I think about it, the more I understand why she would think so.”

“And why is that?”

“Simple logic. You stand in the sun, your face gets rosy, right? It’s a natural reaction; a reflection of the sun’s energy. Take the moon. The moon has no light of its own; we would never even see it by itself, but thanks to the sun, its beautiful. Well, so—”

“So you’re the moon,” she interrupted, “reflecting the sun’s light.”

I frowned. “I was going to say that. But I’m glad you agree. Yes, any similarity my smile has to yours is just the reflection of my joy in being with you.”
She rolled her eyes. “But I don’t agree.”

“You don’t enjoy being with me?” I sobbed.

“Of course not. Why should I?” She trilled. “I’m kidding. I meant that I don’t agree with what you were saying about just being a reflection of the sun’s light. There are more important things than being pretty.”

I held up an index finger. “That’s very true! And I’m glad you brought it up. Don’t you see? Of course you’re more than just a pretty face. You never smile. I never said you had a pretty smile. Take what our society typifies as a ‘beautiful’ woman. That archetype emphasizes all the wrong things. So-called beautiful women may have slim bodies and well-shaped noses and thin eyebrows and red lips, but you have even more, because you have true beauty, inner beauty. You’re a charming, kind, sweet woman, and that’s three of the many, many things that make you beautiful on the inside. That inner beauty always shows on the outside. It’s something you don’t always see in a societally ‘beautiful’ woman. You’re both societally beautiful and truly beautiful; that’s why you glow. That glow is your inner beauty shining, and that is something that can be seen.”

Her eyes gleamed suddenly with triumph. “Exactly!”

“Exactly what?”

“Exactly that,” she repeated. “That makes you the most beautiful man I have ever met. That’s what you don’t see. Because you can’t see yourself. So let me tell you. All the sweet, beautiful things you’ve been saying are reflections of your own beauty.”

“Beauty?”

“Yes, beauty! Don’t be sexist, men can be beautiful.” She trilled again, and continued, “Anyway, my beauty, all this beauty you’ve been talking about, is just a reflection of your beauty. And the beauty I see in you is a reflection of my beauty.”

“So,” I said slowly, “are you saying humans are inherently egocentric?”

“Not at all! Exactly the opposite. It’s giving something to someone else. You’re giving them a part of yourself. That’s why your grandmother says we have the same smile. Not just because our smiles look the same, because she saw something else—the something we gave each other. She saw the same something reflected in both of us.” Glowing brighter than ever, she leaned toward me. “And do you see what that something is?”

I felt the birth of a grin on my lips. “I’m beginning to. You’re something special, I’ll tell you that.”

“And you’re very sweet”—she kissed me—”even if you’re only as cute as a bug, poor little boy!”

“Hey, you’re the one my grandmother thinks looks like a bug, not me.”

“True—but if your beauty is a reflection of mine—”

“Right, right.”

She trilled. I thrilled. She scintillated. I cachinnated.

The End

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Categories: Imagining a Better World, Philosophia Venereum, Short Stories | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

So Much to Do, So Much Time to Do It

Dear readers,

Photo Credit: BramstonePhotography via Compfight cc  (altered)

Photo Credit: BramstonePhotography via Compfight cc (altered)

I had a new thought today, just a little baby thought; it hasn’t grown very big yet and it’s still very young, but I’d be glad to introduce you to it, and let you take away your own impressions from it.One of our biggest problems is the modern world is that we’re far too busy trying to do far too many things, and it’s something I have blogged about in the past. Thinking about this today, and the phrase we’ve developed to describe it, “so much to do, so little time,” it occurred to me that maybe we’re looking at this the wrong way.Perhaps—just perhaps, you understand—we’re being too pessimistic about this. Maybe it’s not that we’re trying to do too much in too little time, maybe we’re just being too pessimistic. You have the rest of your life ahead of you, however long that may be, however old you are; you have a life ahead still, and you can make use of it until the day you die. Think about all that untapped time! Think about all the potential ahead! Why are you worried about yesterday, when tomorrow’s just around the corner, and today’s still here, not gone yet? There’s still a chance today! Just thinking about all that time I still have, not only to accomplish marvels, but to revel in and enjoy life—it gives me that warm-fuzzy feeling. We have plenty of time to put to good use! Maybe we have “so much to do, so much time to do it.” What does this mean exactly? Well that’s just it. I’m not entirely sure yet. But it’s something to think about. What does it mean to you?

 

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“Styles of Writing” by Grant Snider

Incidental Comics, by Grant Snider

Here is a man who understands art.

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Quoth Seuss

Quoth Seuss

Dr. Seuss is a wise man. Don’t you think?

 

 

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