Returned home yesterday, around two P.M.  Scads of emails in the hopper, mail in the box, laundry to do, a dog to pet.

I had a good time at ConText.  The Doubletree where it was held was in a a kind of commercial court with several good restaurants and a multiplex movie theater (which I did not go to).  It was a smallish con with some good guests (Toby Buckell, Lucy Snyder, Paul Melko) and a decent program track.  More about the books than many cons with which I’ve become familiar, which is refreshing.

Diana Dru Botsford, who serves on the Missouri Center for the Book with me, was able to premier her first novel at the convention.  Four Dragons, a Stargate SG-1 novel.  Watching her, I was envious.  The excitement of having your first novel out is unlike anything else.

I was able to link up with my good friend Tim Esaias.  He taught workshops almost all weekend, so we didn’t visit as much as I’d liked, but it’s always good to see Tim.  We now have something that I do not believe previously existed—a picture together.


I’ve known Tim now for…23 years, I suppose.  He very early on encouraged me to continue writing.  He’s been a solid critic, a good editor, and a terrific friend.  He’s teaching now himself, at Seton Hill in Pennsylvania.  Diana was one of his students.

Tim is one of the Good Ones.  Those who know him understand what I mean.  Occasionally such people should be acknowledged.  Tim helped me.  Effectively.

Enough of that, now.  Time to go back to work.


In a couple of days I’ll be heading for Columbus, to attend ConText.  My first time at this convention and it’s long overdue.  I should have gone years ago.  I attended another convention in Columbus once, at the suggestion of my then-publisher who had been invited as a publisher GoH.  When we got there we realized that it was the wrong con for a book release party, which was what he had in mind.  It was almost entirely a media con.

Leafing through the program book I came across an ad for ConText, with the tagline:

“The convention for those of us who actually read the stuff.”

Oops.  Now I’ll make up for my negligence, even those this is not a great time for me to be going to conventions.  I have nothing coming out, no books at least, and it’s been some time since my last one.  (Yes, I’m working on it, I’m working on it.)

But this should be fun.  One of my best friends is conducting a couple of workshops, as is a newer friend, and there are a couple of people there whom I’d like to meet and some others I haven’t seen in some time.  We long ago started using conventions to keep up with friends.

This will be the beginning of a long fall of events.  A lot of stuff happening.

End of this month, MadCon 2010.  The week after that, Archon.  The week after that, The Big Read (here, in Clayton, MO).  On the 23rd, the Celebration of the Book.

As to that last, please consider attending.  We’re doing a smaller one this year, but 2011 ought to be considerably larger.  But we need to start building this up.  The registration form is here.  I’ll be blogging more about this as the time nears.

For now, I must clean house, choose clothes, brush up on my social skills (such as they are).  I’ll say something about how it went when I return next week.

More Playing With Pictures

I had to call a friend to help me set up to scan slides.  It was literally a matter of not having something plugged it.  No, I don’t mind admitting “Doh!” moments.  Learning is filled with them, embarrassment shouldn’t prevent sharing of knowledge.

Anyway, the scanner works for color transparencies now and I have a mother butt load of them in the closet.  Thousands upon thousands.  At least half of them are Kodachrome.

So I began with a couple on hand and started playing.  One I did this morning I have worked up into two versions.  Here’s the first.


Yes, I said and you read correctly that this is from a COLOR transparency.  But it was shot late in the day and was pretty monochromatic, all browns and yellows and hints of red.  I thought it would make a better black & white image and it is pretty dramatic.  (I just desaturated it in Photoshop, played with the contrast, etc.)

But I thought it had a bit more potential.  A photographer I used to admire was Pete Turner, who developed a style of intensely monochromatic images often with one variant color.  I always liked the idea, but the best I could do from what I worked with (unless I lucked into a shot that was basically all one color) was to hand tint black & white images.

Well, Photoshop allows me to indulge it and do it a bit better.  Hence—


This is now my preferred version.  I isolated the two brightly color areas, oversaturated them, and then drew down the saturation over all.  I didn’t quite manage it right to get a completely black & white overall image, but this has some charm I quite like.

Anyway, both images will appear in my Zenfolio portfolio.  A fun morning’s work.

Enjoy the weekend.


As I mentioned in my previous post, Christopher Hitchens has esophageal cancer.  He is undergoing chemotherapy.  His prognosis is not good, as this is a particularly nasty form of cancer with a low survival rate.

It turns out that many people are praying for his recovery, which I find ironic but wonderful.  This is, I’ve been told, what true christianity is supposed to be like—extending the benevolence of your faith to those who might qualify as an enemy.  If only all christians were like that.  If only those who are like that were the loudest voices.

Unfortunately, the screaming meme misanthropic anti-intellectual pre-Enlightenment ignoramus branch of the movement tends to dominate a lot of the discourse, from the supporters of Proposition 8 to those who are not only praying for Hitch to die, but are sending notice of such prayers to public fora and putting megaphone to mouth so as many people as they can blast with their message will hear.

I will let Jeffrey Goldberg, correspondent for The Atlantic, express it for me.  He summed my feelings up quite nicely here.

I know many christians who find their uncouth brethren-in-name an embarrassment.  When they say that “we’re not all like that” they tell the truth.  It is my personal opinion that they would “not be like that” whether they believed in god or nothing, that decency has no denomination and requires no supernatural support mechanism.  I agree with the sentiments of people like Hitch and Richard Dawkins that by and large most people are secular, both in their outlook and their morality, that what is considered good and decent behavior today and what is considered unsupportable have changed over time and it is the pressure of evolving cultural demands, not any new revelation, that has had the most positive effect.  The Enlightenment, wherein many if not all of the ideas of equality and human dignity and the motives for social justice and progress came into their own, was a para-religious movement, sometimes a-religious, occasionally anti-religious.  We do not, most of us, live according to biblical precepts and rules nor would we find it acceptable to do so.

Whatever the reality, Hitch has argued that history is littered with the bodies of religion’s victims, and while it is legitimate to say that those who performed the atrocities did so outside the proper moral ground of religious feeling, it is also legitimate to argue that they in fact found justification for their actions in those same feelings and in the writings of their various faiths.

Hitch has spoken positively about Jesus the man and has argued that whoever he was, he was ahead of his time, a great teacher, and laid down a program those who have claimed for two millennia to be his followers have in aggregate failed to live up to.  Those who are praying for Hitch to recover, to be well, are, in this moment, succeeding.  They should deny those who pray for his death the use of the sobriquet Christian.  Not in that they are not living up to the expectations of their faith—in their eyes they are—but in that they have failed to see how their faith has severed them from legitimate moral feeling.

I do not pray.  But I wish Hitch well.  And for all those believers praying on his behalf—I wish you all well, too.

A Week’s Worth of Stuff

This past week some things have moved forward which please me.  The Missouri Center for the Book is about it have a new Facebook page.  I made the decision to put it up now, in advance of the total website make-over, because I think it will be necessary to get the upcoming Celebration promoted more efficiently.  That event will be October 23rd, again in Columbia.  Barring other avenues of advertising, I think this one will be essential.

It’s happening.  Also, the new website design is coming along quickly and when that is up there will be regular blog posts, and a special section from the state poet laureate.  When that happens, obviously, I’ll post about it here.

On a personal front, I’ve gotten the preliminary schedule from Context in Columbus OH and they’ve put me on at least three panels and given me a kaffeeklatsch.  The latter will be interesting.  I’ve done a couple of these, but with less than amazing results.  One of these days I hope to have a dozen people show up and make me feel like a real honest-to-goodness writer type person.  But the panels look interesting.

More short fiction.  I am forcing the hindbrain to put out.  I will do more short stories.  I’m coming to grips with an old one that almost didn’t work but now seems to be moving along nicely.

I went to the gym Friday and had a decent work-out (650 lbs on the leg press, not too shabby for an old man) but I’m feeling a bit drained today, so I’m putting off going back till tomorrow or Tuesday.

Although many things are still in limbo, curiously I’ve been feeling good about things this past week, like everything will work out fine.  I am not given to groundless optimism or airy prognostications.  “Oh, it will all come out fine, you’ll see,” is not a working philosophy for me.  But you can only control so much on your own.  You can do the best you can with what you have in hand and if the next step depends on Other People, well, you can’t let their lethargy, inertia, or recalcitrance depress you.  It does depress you, because, well, if they don’t do X, Y, or Z then what you want to do doesn’t move forward, but there’s not much you can do about that short of going to them personally and being persuasive.  Like that would work.

So you shift gears and work on something else.  You enjoy a good meal.  Watch a movie, read a book, contemplate the heavens…


In my case, the physical heavens, as the supernatural variety holds no charm for me.

Having said that, I note that Christopher Hitchens, earnest, sharp, intellectually stimulating transplanted Brit who lectures and debates on atheism among other things, is in dire straits.  He was diagnosed recently with esophageal cancer, a nasty form that has a low survival rate.  His father apparently died of it.  I saw him recently on an interview with Anderson Cooper and most of his hair is already gone from the chemo, but he was quite stoic and lucid.  He was asked about the possibility of a death-bed conversion and he said emphatically that as long as he was himself, no, but there’s no guarantee that he won’t be someone else if he’s too far gone in pain and medication.

Life is what it is.  I know intellectually that it isn’t fair.  It isn’t anything pro or con in terms of justice or equality or anything else.  It is what it is.  Fairness is a concept of our invention that we bring to the enterprise.  But because it’s ours, we tend to invest it with merit and get angry when things don’t go according to an expectation we impose.

Still, I wish him well and will regret his death.  He fearlessly pokes into the dark corners and writes about what he finds and people like that are worth more than can be assessed.

Another mixed bag of a week, then.  Can’t wait to see what next week has in store.

Photography and Change

Steve McCurry, a famous photographer whose image of an Afghan girl with brilliant green eyes for National Geographic has become iconic, has been given a great and sad gig—Kodak has handed him the last production roll of Kodachrome to take and shoot.  He’s doing it in grand style, traveling all over the world, with a film crew shooting a documentary about it.

I wanted to be a photographer for National Geographic when I was a teenager.  I knew nothing about how to do that, and for numerous reasons I won’t go into I never found out or took the chance.  I played it safe with a nice steady lab job and didn’t pursue a dream.  Oh well.

But I have nevertheless made some images of which I am very proud.  Here’s one:


I just finished Photoshopping this and doing some work on it to make it more what I wanted it to be.  There are reasons for the abandonment of film, yet I feel sad.  Kodachrome had a special look and it was for a long time my favorite film.  The idea that Kodak won’t be making it anymore—or any of its other films—is just too weird to me.  I remember when they purged their paper line.  They once made dozens of types of photographic paper (b & w) in a variety of surfaces and in the mid to late 70s they discontinued 90% of them.  The market was changing, resin coated paper was becoming popular, sales flagged on the harder-to-use fibre papers…

Still, it’s a loss.  I will be very interested to see what Mr. McCurry does with that final roll.  Meantime, like most of the rest of us, I’m learning to do this digitally.

Gotta say, it has possibilities for me that are very seductive.


Both images were shot in New Mexico.