03/21/2013 09:57:00 AM
So I was rereading a quirky, one-of-a-kind book by the gifted
01/01/2012 06:23:00 AM
Strictly speaking, it's clear to me that I'm not qualified to name the top news story.
What do I know about most of last year?
From January 1, 2010 to September 11, 2011, I was still unplugged from the news.
I was doing my best to imitate a guy named Van Winkle. "Asleep," I was fully committed to my 365-day, 24/7 news-snooze...
Still, all things must end, and over the past few months I've caught up on some of what I missed. It seems pretty obvious what belongs on all the experts' Top Ten N [..]
12/27/2011 11:36:00 AM
Marty invites you to put on the 3-D glasses
for his latest film.
? A couple of weeks ago I did something that was forbidden to me one year ago when I was still Van Winkled. I went to the Century 21 Cinema and took in a newly released film.
My son and I bought tickets and a box of buttered popcorn. We settled back in our chairs and put on 3-D glasses for Hugo.
What's in the Box?
There's a scene in this latest Martin Scorcese's movie (based on the Brian Selznick hybrid novel/graphic nov [..]
10/20/2011 07:04:00 AM
Is it coming to this? Packed in tight, togetherness...
As I very slowly get caught up on some of the news I missed during The Van Winkle Project I still haven't looked at the newspaper I saved that heralds arguably the biggest news story of 2011: the death of Osama Bin Laden.
That's where I thought I'd be today. My nose and eyes and mind tipped toward Pakistan. But history surges ahead.
Rather than moving backwards in time, I'm reading about the inglorious, cell phoned to the world death of [..]
10/14/2011 09:18:00 AM
Today I conclude my brief foray into learning about what is probably some of the least consequential news of last year.
Casey Anthony? Innocent? You're kidding! Brett Favre? I'm sorry to even know about what that man did.
And now we come to the last of the news not worth knowing.
My only excuse for this exercise of diving to the bottom of the fetid American cultural ocean and indulging in several hundred words of bottom feeding is that it's a matter of avoidance behavior.
10/11/2011 06:18:00 AM
All I wanted to do was learn more about Super Bowl XLV which was played back on Feb. 6 in the new Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
Even though I was supposedly Van Winkled and "asleep" at the time, I already knew very well that the Green Bay Packers had won. There had been no way keep that news from assaulting me.
There's something about sports that makes Americans less than reticent. On Super Bowl day we wear our team favorites on our sleeves even more than we do politics, religion, or [..]
10/07/2011 11:19:00 AM
It's been almost a month since I woke up and allowed myself the freedom to once again know what's happening in the world.
The earth turns and I confess I find myself yawning. I'm not really following any of the going-on's as closely as I used to. I'll save the why and wherefore for another day.
Then there's how I'm relating to the recent past.
Surprisingly, at least to me, I've felt very little in the way of a burning desire to find out more about what I missed from Sept. 11, 2010 to Sept [..]
10/04/2011 06:17:00 AM
Last weekend when I went to a conference in Texas's weirdest city ("weird" in a good way) I realized something. We were sleeping beside the dead.
Located on the east side of I-35, across from downtown, the Oakwood Cemetery is the oldest city-owned cemetery in Austin. Some of graves date back to just before the Civil War. One story is that the cemetery was started out of grim necessity when victims of a Comanche raid were buried on what came to be called Swede Hill.
I woke early after our fi [..]
09/29/2011 05:11:00 AM
As I was saying last time...I was at a statewide meeting of creative writing teachers in Austin, Texas over the weekend.
On Saturday morning I sat on a panel that discussed using research in creative writing. I shared how I was drawn to research because over the course of more than 140 posts on this blog I faced the prospect of having very little to write about of significance.
In a sense this has always been a blog, as they used to say on Seinfeld, " with the potential to be about nothing."
09/27/2011 06:50:00 AM
I was in Austin, Texas over the weekend.
The occasion was an annual gathering of creative writing teachers who come from around the state to swap ideas and share their work.
I had the honor of reading a chapter from my new novel Evangel which is currently a lost puppy in search of the loving leash of a publisher.
Evangel is not a satirical novel, although at times I must say I find what the Christian faithful say and do in real life to be humorous. I often have the same response whe [..]
09/23/2011 09:00:00 AM
Now that Phase I of the Van Winkle Project has ended--avoiding the news--I'm in the midst of Phase II. In this effort I'm somewhat like my literary inspiration, Rip Van Winkle.
Since 12 months was long enough for me to forget all the details of Washington Irving's account, I combed the house until I found my nice little copy of Three Tales with its handsome, vintage illustrations.
I wanted to read the ending again and make sure I had it right in my memory.
I especially wanted to revisit ho [..]
07/05/2011 09:48:00 AM
It started with a piece of paper I noticed in the front flowerbed.
I'm used to dealing with such things. Plastic grocery bags snagged on shrubs, door hangers wedged between perennials, sheets of newspaper crumpled at the foot of a tree.
07/01/2011 09:05:00 AM
We were on our way home and we needed one night's lodging.
I had to pick a town and a place to stay.
Hmm, what might prove interesting?
There had been 26 people at our family reunion back in Branson, Missouri, but it was my brother who
06/28/2011 08:16:00 AM
He's coming to tow your wallet away...
???I can't help it if I know that Cars 2 is about to be released. . .
Of all the Pixar films, Cars is arguably the most merchandised and heavily promoted. I don't think even the Toy Story
06/24/2011 06:43:00 AM
I now realize there's a good reason why diamonds are so expensive.
It's not just because the little jewels shine so brightly. It's not just because a diamond is so hard that nothing can cut it except another diamond.
It's also because di
06/21/2011 07:56:00 AM
We weren't on what the locals call a "Bill-grimage." A Bill-grimage? It's a portmanteau word that has come into play to describe tourists who are ardent fans of William Jefferson Clinton and his two-term presidency from 1992-2000.
As has been noted
06/19/2011 08:05:00 AM
Foreground: Texas. Background: Arkansas
I'd never been to Texarkana. Wait. Which Texarkana am I talking about? Because there are two.
There's Texarkana, Texas.
There's Texarkana, Arkanasas.
Both are cities with populations between 30,000 and 40,00
06/16/2011 08:32:00 AM
Here we are on the road and I woke up this morning and had a realization. I can't completely relax during this vacation.
Not until we get to our Sunday night destination and stop staying in overnight lodgings. You see, hotels and motels are a
06/14/2011 07:16:00 AM
It's that time of the year. Many Americans are hitting the open road for their family vacations. Here at The Van Winkle Project, we're about to do the same.
America is such a large country with so many roads and sights to see that
06/10/2011 18:01:00 PM
Today is the day above all days in the year that I look forward to. . .
No, it's not Christmas.
It's not my birthday.
And, it's not "Judgment Day."
Did Van Winkle "sleep" through this?
Yes, we were one of the lucky thousands of cities to be gr
06/07/2011 07:05:00 AM
It began with the seriously grim clouds that moved in like an invading army on Easter afternoon.
Soon hail was bouncing off roofs and lawns and piling up in the street. The hail started out dime size. Then it grew. By the end, some of what was falli
06/03/2011 07:03:00 AM
I've been waiting for this.
Yes, that was me, day by day keeping an eye on the counter over on the right-hand side of this page with the intensity of a gambler staring at a spinning roulette wheel or a slot machine.
The counter has paid off.
05/31/2011 07:27:00 AM
Open the door. Peer out from the front porch and...ugh!
You can feel it.
There's only one way to phrase this properly.
It was hotter than you know what out there.
Heading into the Memorial Day weekend, I knew about the heat without bother
05/27/2011 06:41:00 AM
Father's Day is less than a month away.
Of course, a traditional gesture for that occasion is to gift Dad with...a tie.
Here at The Van Winkle Project we are sharing the following in the hopes that it might be received in time to prove helpful to o
05/24/2011 06:12:00 AM
One thing I know, even in my Van Winkled state, is that we have reached the time of year when caps and gowns are worn and students walk across the stage to receive their college diplomas. This means that throughout America esteemed men and
05/20/2011 06:15:00 AM
As I noted in my last post, our son wanted to go to the movie theater recently where a live performance of the Metropolitan Opera was being broadcast in High Definition.
The opera was the second in Richard Wagner's Ring Cycle which
05/17/2011 06:33:00 AM
Believe it or not, challenges don't come much larger than this.
We're talking Richard Wagner and Brunnhilde the warrior daughter...
a potentially life threatening combination.
? Challenges. I like them...
That's one reason why I try to wri
05/13/2011 11:59:00 AM
AN OPEN LETTER TO GOOGLE
Re: Your Recent Outage
You are one of the most successful entities in the world and the owner of Blogger. I am writing to you because even though my current project places me in a status
05/10/2011 10:43:00 AM
An untidy desk is only the tip of the iceberg...
At the university where I'm employed the Monday before the start of final exams is always designated "Dead Day."
Even though we call it Dead Day, it is not supposed to be an occasion of mou
05/06/2011 08:10:00 AM
Every day it's the same thing in the semi-darkness
just before dawn. Touch, but don't look.
I must save another newspaper for the day I "awake."
Each morning, as I go outside to retrieve the newspaper, I approach the rolled tube lying on the si
05/04/2011 07:30:00 AM
This is a very short story about a personal mystery.
Perhaps science or the fertile imagination of one our readers can propose a credible explanation...
On Sunday afternoon (ON THE DAY THAT SOMETHING IMPORTANT HAPPENED IN THE NEWS &a
05/02/2011 07:07:00 AM
I sense there's been major breaking news.
Can I avoid finding out what it is?
?I'm writing this on Monday, May 2 at 6:19 a.m. CST and I have a recurring question echoing through my mind:
Last night my wife met with some students on ca
04/29/2011 21:22:00 PM
They're everyday wear. That means by definition they're grungy.
There's something odd to note about us
21st Century XY chromosome types.
Maybe it's because not so long ago most of our ancestral father figures were still farming the land. We a
04/26/2011 22:00:00 PM
I keep reminding myself that if a person is "Van Winkled" to what's happening elsewhere on the planet, then the only news that remains available is "local" and "personal."
Specifically, "news" becomes whatever seems of import that happens directly t
04/22/2011 06:08:00 AM
I'd heard of Anselm Adams. Eliot Porter, yes.
Edward Steichen, of course,
but why not this man with the Leica?
It's as if I believed I knew a bit about physics and math and I'd never heard of Albert Einstein.
It's as if in the realm of the d
04/19/2011 06:24:00 AM
Lately I've been bothered by a space inside me that has developed as a result
of not knowing what has happened in the greater world since I went to "sleep" on Sept. 11th of last year.
I can feel this emptiness. It's a dark chamber within
04/15/2011 13:37:00 PM
Point, shoot! Van Winkle embarks on a photo quest.
?One thing I've learned after all these months of being Van Winkled
is that living with proscribed access to what's happening in the larger world means that I have to make my own ne
04/13/2011 06:20:00 AM
?? ? ?
Here it comes...the world's
Today as we conclude our meditations occasioned by the arrival of National Poetry Month (NPM), I'd like to ask the world's dumbest question.
It's a question I seldom notic
04/09/2011 10:36:00 AM
Twelve of us are sitting in nooks and crannies of a downtown book store on a Thursday evening. The students have notebooks flopped open and are scractching out words between ruled lines.
I'm at a table with a computer and a printer near the front d
04/05/2011 06:52:00 AM
Mr. Eliot, and poets like him,
want you to read more poetry...
It would be the easiest thing in the world to write a post today praising how we are are now in the midst of the annual celebration of verse in the U.S.
This is not news. Since 1996 whe
04/01/2011 16:51:00 PM
Let me begin by saying I'm not angry at the NYT.
I'm not going to blame the NYT. And I'm not posting this to diss the NYT.
But after what happened, I've reached my limit. I'm declaring an end to the Van Winkle Project.
I guess it's fair to s
03/29/2011 21:15:00 PM
Due to the wonders of Blogger "Stats," I've noticed that a substantial number of the people who find their way to the Van Winkle Project do so by googling "Rip Van Winkle literary analysis."
My best guess is that these searchers are young people wh
03/25/2011 09:48:00 AM
I will miss the National Walk for Epilepsy which takes place this Sunday in Washington, D.C. Since I'm "Van Winkled" I won't know what the turn-out is like either.
But I do know that with the cherry trees in blossom, thousands of people will gather
03/23/2011 06:26:00 AM
The following is true.
It does not amount to news or entertainment which keeps it in the safe zone, i.e., it is not a blatant violation of The Van Winkle Project. What I'm about to reveal has been a fact for a good long while, although it
03/18/2011 07:33:00 AM
Last week it was Douglas Adams' birthday. It happened on March 11, to be precise, and I wouldn't be surprised if at that anniversary moment somewhere in England a man was lying down in front of a bulldozer trying to prevent his house from being demol
03/15/2011 07:40:00 AM
As of today I have "slept" away one-half year of news, entertainment, sports and weather.
Even though in my mind this represents a notable achievement, I recognize that any celebrating would be massively premature. Read on.
A day ago my broth
03/11/2011 06:00:00 AM
Speller No. 9 is studying word lists right up to the last minute
I acquired a bit of local news this past Saturday in the only way permissible as long as I'm engaged in this project. I didn't need to read it in the newspaper or find it on the Web&nbs
03/03/2011 21:37:00 PM
starting out I thought... tantalize
search number of blogs worldwide
In 2001 there were 2 million blogs. 2005 were up to 50 million. In 2009 according to BlogPulse there are 126 million.
It's not that everyone has started a blog. Click on t
03/02/2011 10:17:00 AM
Today the two-tone blue Smith-Corona portable sits on a high shelf. I've owned it since I left for college, a young man with stories filling his head.
About thirty years ago something came between us.
It changed our relationship.
02/26/2011 07:48:00 AM
Pietro Longhi's "The Confession" (1755). The Venetian artist
painted the wealthy and poor of his day queuing to unburden
themselves. Here at the Van Winkle Project we must do likewise...
The most significant thing that's happened to me of late can
02/22/2011 21:41:00 PM
When I created this blog I vowed that there would be no political or religious opinions expressed herein. The reason for this is that I feel such material tends to divide people from one another wherever they are in the world.
Instead, I'd rather w
02/18/2011 23:17:00 PM
At this point I suppose no one needs to heap praise upon or call further attention to Oprah Winfrey.
Who is this woman? Just one of the best known people on the planet, that's all.
Yet, as I conclude this series on Black History Month, I wou
02/15/2011 07:24:00 AM
Life is odd. Horrible things can happen (like my ancestors owning human beings as slaves, see previous VWP post), but from such horrible things sometimes quite different states of being emerge. Unambiguously good things.
02/12/2011 08:11:00 AM
Even though we probably don't think of it very often, I'm sure most of us would agree that at least some of today's news derives from what was once news in the past, but we now choose to call it "history."
For example, a "new" military conflic
02/08/2011 21:55:00 PM
What I did in lieu of watching the big game... in seven movements...
1 - I'm At Home
I piddle around on Sunday afternoon. I look out the window and I'm glad to see that what was left of the snow and ice that trapped us inside the hou
02/06/2011 06:44:00 AM
In 2005 Careerbuilder.com aired this uber realistic portrayal
of corporate life in America...Pass the bananas, please.
Today Super Bowl viewers around the world will be entertained by the commercials that debut during interludes in the game.
02/03/2011 16:01:00 PM
It's not fair to be too hard on the halftime entertainment at the Super Bowl. You must consider how far this activity had to come in forty-five years to arrive at the present moment.
In 1967 at Super Bowl I the crowd and TV viewers "thrilled" to the
02/02/2011 10:27:00 AM
This is what it looks like outside my front door today. The temperature is 9 degrees Fahrenheit. The wind is blowing, creating an effective "wind chill" temperature of -10 F.
Closures for all schools and universities have been announced for the seco
02/01/2011 09:09:00 AM
I lived in Alaska with my family in those days in a semi-Rip Van Winkled state. None of us had any choice about it. Our delayed access to the news was a fact of life.
Deep into the sixth decade of the 20th Century, Alaskans still had no live T
01/28/2011 09:00:00 AM
"The Reaper - After Millet"
by Van Gogh ( Sept. 1889),
Private Collection, UK
A little scene took place in the driveway on Thursday. It lasted about ten minutes, but it represented the end of a relationship that had endured almost a decade
01/25/2011 07:11:00 AM
One thing that has surprised me about this project was how initially it wasn't so difficult.
I turned off the TV, I kept newspapers at a distance, I drastically limited the websites I visited, and I began to live in blissful ignorance.
01/21/2011 06:48:00 AM
I was feeling good that I had tentatively decided to model myself after one of the ancient Spartans and resolve to become more laconic in my speech and writing in the new year. (See: The Whole Brevity Thing)
But soon I hit a bump in the road. I had
01/18/2011 07:09:00 AM
For the new year I thought I might have just one resolution. Limiting myself to a single resolution ought to be do'able.
Honestly, the downfall of my resolutions in the past is that I always have too many. I come up with the top ten things I want t
01/14/2011 09:31:00 AM
?NEWS NOTE: This week, while driving our son to school, I've seen all the flags at half mast. In keeping with the goals of this project, I still do not know why. I can say, however, that it is disturbing. What exactly has someone done tha
01/11/2011 08:30:00 AM
M. Félix Fénéon
NEWS LEAKAGE: For various reasons that I won't go into, I have a sense there's been a recent violent tragedy in America. Nothing that follows is intended to be an indirect comment on the event, whatever it was, a
01/07/2011 10:10:00 AM
"There's something stuck out there in the front yard," my wife said as she came in the back door.
"What are you talking about?" I asked interested, but not alarmed. After all my wife didn't sound upset, just a bit mystified.
"It's in the bushe
01/04/2011 09:15:00 AM
The Oklahoma farm boy is standing in a field of cotton and looking up at the blue sky. During days like these every man, woman, child hopes to see clouds which amount to almost everything since upon them depends each family's success in trying to ext
12/31/2010 08:32:00 AM
As we move into the new year it seems like a good time to answer some of the imaginary queries in the Van Winkle Project's invisible mail bag.
To make the process as personal as possible, Van Winkle sat down and responded to each question which was