“Letting Go”–A short story published in “Blood and Thunder”

In the fall issue 2011 of Blood and Thunder, a literary journal published by the University of Oklahoma Medical School, my short story “Letting Go” appears, exploring the theme of the ill and dying.  Blood and Thunder does not publish issues online and I could not scan the published version for my blog.

Consequently, click on the cover image above and you will be taken to the fourteen-page document published in its entirety in the current issue.  A version of this short story is being included in the final draft of my novel, Unhealed Wound.  I would be very, very interested in receiving your comments!


“Butter”– A Soft Pat for the Audience

With the Iowa primary just ending, I was reminded of the movie “Butter” which I saw at the Napa Valley Film Festival in mid-November. “Butter” zooms in on the butter-carving contest made famous at the annual Iowa State fair. Butter sculpting is a very popular and competitive art in places like Iowa (with butter statues of Elvis Presley, Tiger Woods, The Last Supper, Superman, and Harry Potter), 

 and the movie contains some really amazing butter statues including Newt Gingrich. “Butter” will be released on March 16.

“Butter” opens as a quirky political satire with Battle Hymn of the Republic playing in the background of red, white, and blue balloons.  Laura Pickler (Jennifer Garner playing against type), the wife of Iowa’s reigning butter-carving champion, is a stickler for her husband’s long run as the annual winner. She has delusions of his butter-carving skills turning into more heavyweight ambitions:  the White House.   Bob is asked to step down so that someone else can have a chance at the title, and he graciously agrees.  Laura, however, is incensed and decides to compete herself.   Bob reacts by taking solace in a strip club with Brooke (Olivia Wilde in a hilarious turn).

Then a child enters the contest. Destiny (the enchanting Yara Shahidi), is a fresh-faced, charming little girl who enters a contest in which there has always been only one winner and never any African American contestants in a community with no African American residents.  A  10-year-old foster child who’s adopted by a middle-class white couple, Destiny discovers that she likes to carve sculptures in butter too. Realizing that Destiny will be a formidable opponent, Laura ruthlessly plots with her high school sweetheart, Boyd (Hugh Jackman), to battle against Destiny.  Garner is hilarious, channeling her inner Sarah Palin or Michelle Bachman, with prim and proper dresses and pearls.

There is some sharp and funny satirical dialogue but there are also depressing, cheap shots disguised as jokes uttered by Destiny.  This tastelessness irritated me.  This child actress is so much better than some of the inferior material.  Still, her dialogue with her foster father (Rob Corddry), sitting in the car,  discussing her application to compete is worth the price of a ticket.  His graceful chemistry with Destiny is warm, gentle, and kind but in a subtle, not mawkish way.  Laughs come naturally in the midst of his tenderness as a neophyte father.

There are just enough solid performances and good jokes to keep Butter from being a bad movie, or one where you are embarrassed laughing at dumb jokes. (Don’t miss the outtakes for some hilarious zingers!) “Butter’s” strength lies completely in its lead actresses (Jennifer Garner and Yara Shahidi) and its offbeat back-story of small-town America. It is sometimes raunchy and often over the top, sometimes cliched and going for a cheap laugh.   Overall, the laughs are enough to keep its audience satisfied. Most of all, “Butter” is a story about what it means to win at all costs and against all odds, and what self-deception can do to a person who thinks she is winning when she is losing everything.  That can be a very funny, not to mention poignant, story!


Happy New Year! –The Year of the Dragon

Happy New Year, everyone, and may some fire be breathed into your lives with good fortune, excitement, and the acceptance of transition and change!

I always like to look up the feng-shui and Chinese New Year after toasting with champagne a few days earlier.  I found out that 2012 is the first black water dragon year in 60 years.  (The other dragon years were not water dragon years.) The dragon is considered unpredictable and untouchable.  Its mystery is never completely known.  People cannot see its head and tail at the same time.

The dragon is the most powerful, revered symbol in ancient Chinese mythology.  A system of twelve animals not unlike the western zodiac with symbols for each of the twelve months, the Chinese zodiac is organized by the order in which animals (including the mythic dragon) were converted by Buddha.  The first was the rat (not ugly and inauspicious as in European mythology) and the dragon is the fifth among the twelve. It is the preeminent symbol of majesty, power, intelligence and wisdom. (Only the Chinese emperor, Son of Heaven, could wear the robe with the dragon’s five talons.  Sumptuary laws prohibited anyone else from wearing this image.)

Black water dragon year–is the free spirit of the zodiac, the most auspicious as well as the most mystifying. Dragon years are considered especially fortunate for new businesses, marriage and children. Therefore, 2012 will be a year of head-spinning unpredictability, uncertainty, transition, change and energy.

The Water Dragon year, which starts January 23, 2012, ushers in a tumultuous blast of energy. Everything this year, good or bad, will seem bigger than life and larger in magnitude leading to a frenzy of  change for the world, like the epic size and magical powers of the mythical beast!  We all have lots of surprises in this Year of the Dragon–  Happy New Year!