“For Independent Minds”–Grey Sparrow Press

The Internet has created vast new horizons for first-time artists and writers–for new voices.  And indie publishers and self-publishing companies help create and reach new audiences for these voices.  But it still is a daily battle to prove that the new distribution channels for creativity are just as good (or better?) than the traditional black-and-white print media.

Small presses have become  a new and legitimate publishing force. Today these small publishers comprise approximately half of market share in the industry.

One such innovative and dynamic literary journal and press is Grey Sparrow, based in St. Paul, Minnesota.  Grey Sparrow offers a “National Treasure” series in the arts, and features a short story or poem by a Pulitzer Prize writer for most issues.  Emerging and established voices are both presented.  As the recipient of the “Best New Journal” award in 2011 by the MLA (Modern Language Association), Grey Sparrow’s mission is to publish visual art, photography, and literature in print and ezine format.  In addition, Grey Sparrow Press publishes books by first-time authors and announces them on its website  (http://store.thelitpub.com).

If you have art, photography or creative writing you would like to offer to a wider audience, and give voice to your story and interpretation, consider submitting to Grey Sparrow.  (Some of my art is featured in the current January 2013 issue.)

Independent publishing and self-publishing can be the perfect solution for voices yet to be heard, for the poetry of memory and time.  Through language and art, we can make what is small, bigger; what is silent, heard; and what is fleeting, eternal.

“Argo”–An Argonaut for Our Time

Although this movie is nominated for eight Academy Awards and won several Golden Globes (including Best Motion Picture in Drama and Best Director), it has not received the traction or box office success that it so richly deserves.  With Ben Affleck’s masterful direction, production and acting in “Argo” the studio and distributor have decided to re-release this film after the Academy Awards.

Based on a 1979 historical event at the  American embassy in Tehran,  six American  employees manage to escape and seek protection at the nearby Canadian embassy immediately prior to the storming of the US embassy by Iranian revolutionaries., “Argo”  kicks into high gear once Affleck lands in Iran. Affleck, on the other hand, is incredibly sympathetic, and it’s  fear for him that drives the emotional energy of the narrative. With few options, CIA technical operations expert Tony Mendez devises a daring plan: to simulate producing a  Canadian sci-fi film –preposterously far-fetched– on location in Tehran  in order to smuggle the Americans out as its production crew. With the help of some Hollywood industry contacts, Mendez flies to Iran as the film’s associate producer. However, time is running out.  Iranian security forces are zeroing in on the truth while both the Americans-in-hiding and the White House have serious doubts about the operation’s viability.

The story is intense and suspenseful, even though the viewer knows the outcome. Crackling with energy and determination to outsmart the Iranian revolutionaries, “Argo” captures the mood of our country. Affleck plays the quintessential American hero, confident to a fault, who will do anything to protect those he is responsible for–and  it is our fear for him that drives the emotional content of the film.


The Year of the Snake (February 10, 2013 – January 30, 2014)–Symbol of a Second Chance

Happy New Year –Chinese Style–is still around the corner. According to Chinese Buddhism, before the Buddha entered Nirvana only twelve animals came to pay homage. So the Buddha honored them by naming a twelve-year cycle after them. The Snake, the most complex and “unsettling” force among the twelve, was the sixth animal to pay its respect to the Buddha. This year is the year of the black (water) snake.

The Snake year has never been tranquil, due to the missteps and excesses rooted in the previous Dragon year (see my earlier post, “Happy New Year”–The Year of the Dragon). As the Dragon (2012) exits, the Snake begins to uncoil.  Both predator and prey, the snake must keep its eyes open, with a wakeful knowing, an omniscient awareness. We must be alert, like snakes.  Feelings will become more intense, so analysis is essential, and opportunities to “see” more, notice more, and fine-tune decision-making will arise.

We are invited this year to slough off old ways of thinking and develop a second skin. Prepare for letting go of old habits, roles and responses, and opening the way for rejuvenation, like a snake shedding its skin.   A source of spiritual healing, a medicine for the soul, 2013 is believed to restore balance in the midst of chaos and disharmony.   Yin must follow Yang for the universe to be in balance. The Dragon Yang, as the cycle’s most powerful positive force, must be balanced by the cycle’s most powerful negative force, the Snake Yin. Snakes are the symbol of a “second chance” in life. 

The Snake seeks protection in the security of safe places. This is not a year to take risks but for cautious preparation and attention to detail. Focus and discipline will be necessary for us to achieve what we want. Reflect, ponder and plan.

Saving money and being thrifty should be top priorities for all of us, in order to gain the greatest benefits the Year of the Snake has to offer.  In the Chinese zodiac the snake is wise but it is also unforgiving. Understand this to prepare for the Year of the Snake and you will not be surprised by the challenges and opportunities in store for you!