Friday, August 28, 2015

Kill Your Darlings -- a paragraph from "Road Kills"

"The water stank. The muddy ground never seemed to dry out, even in the dog days of summer, and the sky was a constant shade of gray, hazy and dirty as if from a perpetual forest fire. The people looked stunted, shriveled, their faces as dry and withered as raisins left too long in the sun. Power plants dotted the riverbanks, their smokestacks impossibly tall, spewing god knows what into the already-poisoned atmosphere. It was like staring straight down the throat of Hell. How could anyone actually miss such a place?"
     from "Road Kills", a short story by Timothy Walker  

reading: Reel Terror, an anthology edited by Sebastian Wolfe
listening: Herbie Hancock
watching: My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic        

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Rare James Joyce Letters Sold At Auction

Anchor Babies

Today is Thursday, August 27, 2015.  Kept our son home from school today, and he is playing with our daughter while I type these words.

I've written for the Dayton City Paper on and off for several years, and before that I wrote for the paper in it's earlier incarnations -- as the Impact Weekly, and before that, the Dayton Voice.

When my wife Elizabeth (girlfriend at the time) and I moved to Dayton in August of 1995, I sought out the offices of the Dayton Voice and presented them with some writing samples. The paper's editor Marianne McMullen, and publisher, her husband Jeff Epton, both liked my writing and they put me to work reviewing books, writing features, and judging and helping to organize the Voice's annual short story and poetry competition, which I remember attracting over 100 short stories and 700 poems one year. My columns and articles garnered several letters from New York magazine's John Simon, and also a phone call from Harlan Ellison thanking me for a review and dispensing some advice on being (and staying) a writer. 

I always enjoyed writing for the paper, and I learned a lot.

At this point in my life, I write for Sarah Sidlow, editor, and Paul Noah, publisher and owner of the Dayton City Paper. I very much enjoy still being associated with the paper, which is the local arts and entertainment weekly for the area. I feel it's a quality publication, and that the staff and writers strive to deliver an interesting product week in and week out. It isn't perfect, and I'm sure we have our share of local detractors, but I defend it and I'm proud to be a part of it.

Each week our newspaper features a section called Debate Forum, in which a newsworthy topic is introduced, and then written about by two writers, one taking a liberal slant on the topic, the other a more conservative viewpoint. I was asked recently to act as "moderator" of the section each week, helping to select the topic and writing the introductory material before handing it over to the two writers who will face off and argue their sides. This week presented my first opportunity to introduce the topic for the next Debate Forum, which is on the subject of "anchor babies" -- currently in the news due to the presidential campaigns.

I present that short (650 words), unedited piece to you here for your amusement.

Are U.S. Babies Born to Illegal Aliens Really Americans?


Tim Walker

What makes you an American citizen?

The Constitution, for one thing. If you were born in this country then
you are automatically, by definition, a citizen of the United States,
with all the rights and privileges that status entails – regardless of
your race, sex, religion, or ethnic background, and regardless of
whether or not anyone else in your family is a citizen.

Immigration, illegal and otherwise, promises to be a hot-button issue
during the upcoming Presidential campaigns. Which means, if you've
been following the news, that the term “anchor babies” is coming up
more and more often. Tossed around by Donald Trump, drawing criticism
of Jeb Bush like a lightning rod, the term has become a sound bite, a
meme in the political climate.

What exactly is an anchor baby? In the current political parlance, an 

anchor baby – an often derogatory term which many are equating with an
ethnic slur –  is a child born in this country to parents who are not
U.S. citizens, possibly with the hopes that the child may some day
make it easier for the parents to become citizens themselves.

The 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified 147 years ago
by a Congress who were desperately trying to define exactly what an
American was. In their desire to undo the damage years of slavery had
done to this country, damage which the five bloody years of the Civil
War had just recently brought to an end, Congress amended the
Constitution to say this, in part: “All persons born or naturalized in
the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are
citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No
state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges
or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state
deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process
of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal
protection of the laws.”

Which means, those of you who are running for office, that short of a
major change to the U.S. Constitution – a difficult process which
involves a two-thirds majority vote in congress and ratification by
three-quarters of the states – then children of illegal immigrants, so
called anchor babies, are going to remain citizens of the United

Which means, Arizona, that you cannot suddenly define as an “illegal
alien” any child born within the borders of your state to parents who
are themselves illegal aliens.

Do anchor babies have the right to be citizens? Is it fair for us, as
a nation, to embrace the children of people who never should have been
here in the first place, and make them citizens of this great nation,
when this nation so obviously already has trouble taking care of its
own? Won't that just encourage illegal ready-to-deliver parents to
desperately find some way to get across the border, then look for the
nearest hospital? Isn't this whole concept economic suicide?

Or do we continue on the path that made this nation the world's
shining example of freedom that we are? Do we continue to honor those
words at the base of the Statue of Liberty, “give me your tired, your
poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free”? Can we really
justify changing the Constitution to exclude so many children born
here within our borders? What then – do we adopt the Nazi policy of
saying that the estimated four million anchor babies already residing
in this country are, retroactively, never citizens in the first place?

Anchor babies – free U.S. Citizens at birth? Or nothing but newborn
burdens on taxpayers? 

reading: Thomas Harris's HANNIBAL (the "Florence" chapters)
listening: the Jackie Brown soundtrack
watching: old NOVA episodes

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The late E.L. Doctorow, from The Paris Review, Winter 1986, "The Art of Fiction #94"

Do you have any idea how a project is going to end?

Not at that point, no. It’s not a terribly rational way to work. It’s hard to explain. I have found one explanation that seems to satisfy people. I tell them it’s like driving a car at night: you never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.

How many times do you come to a dead end?

Well if it’s a dead end, there’s no book. That happens too. You start again. But if you’re truly underway you may wander into culverts, through fences into fields, and so on. When you’re off the road you don’t always know it immediately. If you feel a bump on page one hundred, it may be you went off on page fifty. So you have to trace your way back, you see. It sounds like a hazardous way of working—and it is—but there is one terrific advantage to it: Each book tends to have its own identity rather than the author’s. It speaks from itself rather than you. Each book is unlike the others because you are not bringing the same voice to every book. I think that keeps you alive as a writer. I’ve just read the latest Ernest Hemingway publication, The Garden of Eden—it’s actually a fragment of a work he never completed—and in this as in the others he spoke with the Hemingway voice. He applied the same strategies to every book, strategies as it happens that he came upon and invented quite early on in his career. They were his triumph in the early days. But by the last decade or two of his working life they trapped him, restricted him, and defeated him. He was always Hemingway writing, you see. Of course at his best that wasn’t such a bad thing, was it? But if we’re speaking of entry to the larger mind, his was not the way to find it.

"Look out Mama, there's a white boat comin' up the river"

I turned 50 on Saturday, 3 days ago.

I've been trying to make some changes in my life. Cutting way back on my drinking, trying to get our house and finances in order, trying to concentrate more on my writing and wife and family. The opposite of the mid-life crisis, maybe -- instead of trying to act like I'm in my twenties, I'm trying to be a grown-up for once.

I miss my friend Mike South, who is still semi-laid-up in Georgia from his motorcycle accident 9 weeks ago. I would like to visit him but making time for the trip is difficult.

I started working on a new short story today, a crime story called "Schooling Damien".

reading: Lucky at Cards by Lawrence Block
hearing: Kind of Blue, by Miles Davis
seeing: Peter Jackson's "King Kong"

Thursday, August 13, 2015

In the Lovecraft Museum

Just got the new hardcover novella from Steve Rasnic Tem today... came all the way from PS Publishing in England. Can't wait to read it -- I am a madman for Steve's work and cannot recommend his books highly enough.

"Make a joke and I will sigh and you will laugh and I will cry"

Spent the day with my two youngest while Beth worked. Did some minor yard work: trimmed the hedges out front, cut some plants that were growing around the back porch, cut some grass in the backyard. Getting ready for a show tomorrow with the band -- we're playing Oddbody's, a concert venue here in Dayton where we played last August and did very well. Looking forward to the show, which will be our first "real" show since Kent Martin left the band and moved to Colorado in January.

Woke up and weighed 198 today, which is a step in the right direction, but still far from 185, which is my goal weight. I plan on stay on the low-carb regimen for another week until my wife takes me to Spaghetti Warehouse to celebrate my 50th birthday. 

Music: Ozzy & Sabbath
Reading: Steve Rasnic Tem, "In the Lovecraft Museum"
Watching: Jackie Brown

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

By Your Side, Brother

Beth is working today. I read for a bit, then got the kids into the Pontiac and headed up to Troy to visit Animal.

Animal is in his early 40's, and he worked for me at Flamingo Showclub when I was the manager there. At various times, he cleaned the club, bounced and also worked as a D.J. He left before I quit, and since then we've stayed in touch and remained friends. He's been through a few relationships which have resulted in 2 small kids, 3 major strokes and several minor ones, and (I think) 3 heart attacks.

He's currently in a rehab center recovering from a recent stroke and heart attack, and I wanted to take the kids to see him. We brought him one of the band's posters to hang in his room, some books to read and a bottle of Coke (which he'd asked for).

The kids were good. He gave my daughter Stormy a drawing of Winnie the Pooh he had done. We couldn't stay as long as I wanted to, but it was nice to visit with my friend and wish him a speedy recovery.

I plan to dedicate "Sweet Leaf" to him at my band's show this Friday.

Music: Herbie Hancock
Reading: Steve Rasnic Tem
Watching: Cartoons