Saturday, December 15, 2007

Is Anything Made in America Anymore?

This is a wonderful time -- looking forward to a first Christmas with my two grandsons and great-nephew. There is nothing I can imagine that could be better for Christmas than the gift of these precious little boys.

Yet...this is one of the most frustrating holiday seasons ever. With three little boys to shop for, thoughts go to Fisher-Price, Mattel, and all those other toymakers who made our holidays past so memorable. But -- all these names mean to me this Christmas is..."Made in China", lead paint, and toxic! I am furious at these corporations for betraying me, my grandchildren, and my country!

I've looked online for "Made in America" -- and I've found some things. So what's the problem? First, there is selection. There's not a whole lot that looks like a modern child might be thrilled to see under the tree. Maybe fifty years ago -- but not today. The second, and maybe the most significant -- price! Good gracious -- $50.00 for a set of 28 wooden blocks? Bless them for using "non-toxic ink", but do they really need to gouge me this badly!

All I want for Christmas is a non-toxic, reasonably priced toy, or two! What happened to Sam Walton's philosophy of American made? Surely the traditions of stocking stores and conducting transactions that made a simple Arkansas businessman the world's richest man, while selling quality, safe, American-made goods was good enough. Are his offspring so greedy that they would sell the nation's soul for a little more profit? And, mind you, this is not just a mere matter of what Walmart sells -- as Walmart goes, so goes the rest of the retail industry. The bottom line is dependent on competition, and competition has already been devastated by Walmart. Now that they've traded our national soul for a bowl of pottage, it's unlikely that any other merchants will do very much to try to bring us redemption.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Michael James Bohannon -- Happy Birthday, and Rest in Peace

Today (December 9th) is my firstborn son's birthday. Michael James Bohannon was born at the University of Arizona Medical Center in Tucson. He was two months premature and weighed a little over 3 lbs. 5 oz. Nine days later, after a battle with necrotizing entercolitis and two surgeries, Michael passed away quietly in my arms in a "quiet room" at the hospital. As impossible as it may sound, just before he died, my tiny son opened his eyes, looked up at me, and smiled. He then made one last gasp, and I knew he was gone. The nurse came in and listened with the stethescope and confirmed it.

On this, his 29th birthday, I still miss Michael, and I love him very, very much.

Happy Birthday, Michael! I love you! ~ Daddy

Saturday, December 8, 2007

First Steps...

My grandson, David Jeremiah Garcia, began walking yesterday. Oh, he's been standing on his own for a few weeks, and he's taken a very tentative step or two, but yesterday he took a step while reaching for me, and doing that sneaky grownup thing, I moved back just out of reach. David kept stepping, and I kept moving back, encouraging him forward the whole time. Then I reached out, picked him up, gave him a big hug and kiss, and said, "You walked!" He smiled and wiggled a bit. He knew he'd just done something amazing. Needless to say, it made me feel good that the first walking David did was to get to me -- his Papa. We then called Mama and Grandma in from the yard and showed off for them.

This whole experience has been a reminder that we are constantly learning to walk, in one way or another. There are all sorts of steps we must learn to take. First we learn to balance ourselves and stand upright. Then we hold onto something and practice getting one clumsy foot in front of the other. Then someone we trust lets us hold onto their hand while we practice for the real thing. At last comes the day when we let go and take those anxious, uncertain steps and walk.

That is how it has been with so many aspects of my life. When I went to Marine Corps bootcamp, the first thing I had to look for after getting off the bus was the famous yellow footprints. We had to learn how to stand all over again -- heels together, feet forming a 45 degree angle. Then we had to learn how to walk, together -- left...left...left, right, left! "Don't bounce, this ain't a dance sweethearts!" "Get in step, get in step!" "The other right foot!" For 13 weeks I learned how to walk, until I was able to march off Parris Island as a United States Marine.

The latest walk for me, of course, is my writing. I've been learning how to balance, and how to take a few tentative anxious steps. Now, all of a sudden (or so it seems) I am walking -- stumbling and clumsy, yes...but writing! David just learned how to walk, and he will spend the next couple of years perfecting his steps. Soon he'll be walking without even thinking about his steps; he'll only be concerned with where he wants to go. He's given me a refreshing shot of courage, because I know that while I'm having to pay too much attention to my steps right now, before long I'll write and only be concerned with where I want to go.

David Jeremiah Garcia, I love you, and Papa's so proud of you! Now I want to succeed so you can be proud of me.

[Photo: David Garcia holding his Papa's hand at the Milledgeville, GA, Christmas parade, December 2, 2007]

Thursday, November 29, 2007

A Novel Idea!

I have finally begun work on a novel. I won't be saying much about it here, because...well, because I don't won't to talk about it a lot; I just want to write it. I have set myself some pretty serious goals.

By December 15th, have a detailed outline of the entire book completed.

By December 30th, have the first three chapters finished.

On or shortly after January 1, send the first three chapters to my volunteer readers -- so far there are 8 of them, one in Oregon, one in Montana, two in Florida, and four in Georgia.

I've started researching agents who may be interested in the kind of book I am writing. It is a fantasy story rooted in mythology, faerie lore (most of which I'm making up), and quantum physics. There is a battle of good and evil -- which is a universal theme, but I hope to put my own very special twist on this theme. Stay tuned.


A couple of good quotes I found today that are appropriate to the plot of my story:

"The myth is the foundation of life, the timeless scema, the pious formula into which life flows when it reproduces its traits out of the unconscious."
~ Thomas Mann, "Freud and the Future"

"Man, apparantly, cannot maintain himself in the universe without believe in some arrangement of the general inheritance of myth."
~ Joseph Campbell, The Masks of God: Primitive Mythology

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


The stark raving sky
pushes the moon aside

The cold golden sun
inches its way up earth
hand over hand
growing warm from effort
till it burns.

(Photo: Sunrise, Oct. 10, 2006
by Jim Bohannon)

Monday, November 26, 2007

Up, Down, and Holes in the Ground

Some stream-of-consciousness reflections from my journal today:

I looked up at the stars and watched the heavenly dance about me, a slow dance measured in the steady rhythm of the universe. What is up there, out there, down there -- I say "down there" because in a sense, I am up here looking down on other worlds. When I was a boy, I used to get dizzy looking up. Flying and looking down at the ground from tall buildings never bothered me, but looking up at an airplane or a tall skyscraper disoriented me, made me feel woozy and a little nauseated -- do they make groundsick bags? It is because I realize the concept of up and down is an illusion generated by the random direction of gravity, and gravity, being the weakest of the four physical forces, shouldn’t be allowed to dictate as much as it does. Of course, I know gravity has power over me, and for that I am mostly grateful. It would be most uncomfortable to keep floating out of my seat as I try to type or read. Yet, it would be most dangerous if I decided to fly off the top of a tall building hoping to fly over the countryside to explore its beauty. I would die. That’s what gravity would do to me. Gravity is weak, and it has no conciense. (If I am wrong, I apologize to gravity.)

When I was a boy, I used to love climbing into holes in the ground. Nowadays I am claustrophobic, and there is no way I would go into some of the holes or crawl through some of the tiny pipes that I did in those days. I cringe to think about it now, and yet in a way I long to be able to do that again, to do it without fear. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become fearful of being trapped -- of being trapped in the debris of a collapsed building or the crumpled wreckage of an automobile. Perhaps it’s the looming fear of being forever trapped in the grave. And yet, I feel - I believe - there is something more. The grave cannot hold me. "O, death, where is thy sting? Grave, where is thy victory?" Is there existence beyond death, or is it an all-encompassing, eternally peaceful rest trapped in the debris of a dying world - universe? What is existence anyway? Philosophers debate and speculate and argue and become self-assured, but in fact, nobody knows, not even the most brilliant of the philosophers. All of us are doomed to speculate, to believe, and we divide ourselves most hideously and most violently over issues of what will happen after death. The Muslim extremist kills himself and innocent people because of the promise of an afterlife full of sexual bliss. The Christian fundamentalist spends her life in torment with the world because she believes everyone around her is going to hell "without Jesus". There have been times in my life where I was cocksure I knew. Now I’m humbly uncertain, yet eternally hopeful. But I’m still avoiding small spaces.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Reflections on Nabokov's Lolita

I'd been wanting to read it for a long time. Lolita, that is. The novel by Vladimir Nabokov. I finally did, and here's how it came about (from my 2005 Journal):


Friday, October 21, 2005 (12:37 a.m.)

Late this evening I walked down the moonlit driveway and crossed the highway (with flashlight lit) to fetch two boxes from Two of the books I ordered were waiting there for me. Thousands of books in my possession, and it’s always such a delight to get new books – especially these. These are Nabokov! I’ve never owned a work of Nabokov. A softcover copy of Lectures on Literature (edited by Fredson Bowers, with an introduction by John Updike) and The Library of America volume, Nabokov: Novels 1955-1962 (including Lolita, Pale Fire, and the screenplay for Lolita that Nabokov wrote for Stanley Kubric). I’ve already been reading in them – particularly the editor’s forward to Lectures on Literature, and a few random passages from Lolita. No doubt I will learn a lot about reading, about literature, and about how to craft my own writing to make it alive and vital.

[end of journal selection]

Lolita, following in the footsteps of other great works, such as James Joyce's Ulysses, has been regularly and frequently banned. When it was first published, Nabakov had to resort to a French publisher, because no American publisher was willing to take a chance on such subject matter -- a fictitious prison memoir of a relationship between a middle-aged man and a 12 year old girl. On its premier publication, one reviewer in London called it "the filthiest book I have ever read" and "sheer unrestrained pornography," which probably assured the book immediate success. The great writer (and British spy) Graham Greene, on the other hand, called it one of the best novels of 1954.

The book is one of the finest I have ever read. We see into the head of Humbert Humbert, and far from being an apologetic for pedophilia, we see Humbert for the monster that he really is. Nevertheless, we also see him as a human being, which is the real magic of the book for me. The prose is exquisite, which is amazing in itself considering Nabokov initially established his career in literature in his native Russian and only began writing in English later in his life. Perhaps that is why he was such a master of the language. When he wasn't writing, Nabokov was most frequently pursuing his other great love -- chasing butterflies. He was an avid lepidopterist. What an apt metaphor, because one can imagine him chasing and capturing the most beautiful words and collecting them in his prose.

I saw this title on a list of suggested books for the local book group I recently joined, and I hope we will select this for one of our monthly discussions. If you've not given Nabokov in general, and Lolita in particular, a chance -- perhaps because of the "scandalous" topic, or because you are intimidated by "great literature" (remember, great literature is great because it is first of all good literature) -- I hope you'll take a look at it. The poetry, the sheer loveliness of language, is evident in the rhythm of the opening lines, some of the most beautiful in all of literature:

Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta.

She was Lo, plain Lo, in the morning, standing four feet ten in one sock. She was Lola in slacks. She was Dolly at school. She was Dolores on the dotted line. But in my arms she was always Lolita.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Oh, Christmas Tree...

When I was a boy, I spent a lot of time roaming through the woods. Usually I'd carry a hatchet and either my .22 rifle or 410 shotgun, and I'd be gone for much of the day. Those were very different times. I can't imagine spending the better part of a day with my children wandering Lord knows where. I want them close to my sights, if not directly in them, so I can be ready to rescue them from whatever crazy danger contemporary society might have in store for them. Ahhh...those were very different times indeed.

One of my annual chores was to hunt down a Christmas tree -- always a cedar; I didn't even realize there was any other kind till I was well into my teens. I'd usually have a spot already staked out and hoped I'd remember how to get back to it when it was tree cutting time. I'd try to find the prettiest, shapeliest cedar in the woods, and finding that perfect tree was always a thrill. I can't imaging getting that much deep-down joy from a video game! Dragging the tree out was always a challenge, especially having to tote a hatchet and rifle too.

Yesterday we went tree hunting. We wandered deep into the wilds of Walmart, right into the middle of the garden section, and there it was. A 7-foot Douglas Fir -- it assembles in three sections and comes pre-lit! I never saw one of these in the woods. Dragging it out was still a chore, because for some reason we'd completely forgotten to get a shopping cart. No fear -- He Man is here. I hoisted the box over my head by the straps, and we began the retreat to the checkout counter. Trudging through Walmart holding a boxed fake tree over my head, I felt somewhere between extremely virile and very foolish. Confused shoppers gave me plenty of room.

The tree's in the attic now. We have to clear out a spot to put it. At least that part's the same as when I was a boy. Gabriel was upset that we got a pre-lit tree. "But I wanted to put the lights on!" he said. "What are we going to do with the lights now?" I told him to decorate the outside of the house or the yard -- anything. But if he puts them up, he takes them down. I've done my chore.


Thankful... meaning literally "full of thanks". My favorite talk show host (actually the only one I listen to) is Dennis Prager, and he is very big on happiness. He has written a book on the subject (Happiness Is a Serious Problem) and gives lectures around the country. According to Dennis, thankfulness is essential to happiness. I have to agree with him. Have you ever seen an ungrateful person who was happy?

Once a year we have a day formally set aside to be thankful. Believe it or not, Thanksgiving is for more than just eating a lot (although that's a pretty neat side benefit). It's even for more than getting together with loved ones (or in the case of some families, getting together with people whom you try to tolerate once a year). It's a day on which to be full of thanks.

This Thanksgiving day found me celebrating with lots of people whom I love -- and eating and napping and taking some time to read and playing my guitar and chatting online with a dear friend. I am "full of thanks". A list of things for which I'm thankful would be too long to post, but would include:

  • my family (of course)
  • my books (lots and lots of books!)
  • my guitar
  • getting to be with my two grandsons and my great-nephew (all in one day!)
  • my computer (because it opens up the world to me and connects me with friends)
  • music (and, in particular, my subscription to Rhapsody music service)
  • airplanes (even though I can't afford to fly anymore, I can still say I'm a pilot - I got to fly!)
  • a meaningful job (even though it ain't the highest paying one)
  • a love of writing and words!
  • that my brother survived his near-deadly medical ordeal, and I got to visit with him last weekend!
  • Books-A-Million
  • coffee!
I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving wherever you are, and one more thing for which I am thankful -- all of you who honor and humble me by reading my blog.

Blessings, peace, & love to each of you!

~ Jim

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Parable of the Oak Tree

When I was in the eighth grade, I found a tiny live oak tree in the woods in which I was tramping. I knew if I left the tree there, it probably wouldn’t survive, and I wanted it – needed it. I was in the midst of a passionate love affair with plants, and I felt a harmony with growing things that has enriched my life to this day. When my spirit gets dry, I listen to the trees calling. I hear their song.

I planted that tree in a corner of the yard, and I surrounded it with white quartz rocks so it would be protected from clumsy feet and deadly lawnmower blades. The little tree thrived on my love, and by the time I had grown up and left home to make my journey into the distant world, it had grown into a big, spreading tree with limbs overhanging the little road in front of the house.

That tree has listened to me and nurtured me through unnumbered crises and joys. It has watched my children play and given them shelter from the biting sun. It has been home for bird families and nourished the world with their songs. It has been a magical tree. That’s how I have always seen it – and how I always will.

The tree lived in the yard of my mother’s house, and when I had to sell the place, the tree had to go too. What the new owners have done with it, I don’t know. I haven’t had the heart to go back and see. They don’t know that tree, even though they may “own” it. By now they may have even cut it down. There were complaints about how the tree had spread into the neighbor’s yard, and how it was threatening to obscure visibility on the little road beside it. But what nobody knows is that I took the tree with me – in my spirit. I had to – it was part of me.

Thinking about my oak set me to thinking about how we see things – the differences in viewpoints, in perspectives, in angles. One tree – many trees. Here is a tale about seeing a tree.


There was an oak tree that sat on a small hill – a live oak that had sent its first roots into the soil more than a hundred years before. It had stretched out to the sky in praise while its limbs were shaped by the wind and from following the sun each day, and its acorns had fattened generations of grateful squirrels. Many people had looked upon the tree, and each had seen something different.

A carpenter saw beautiful wood with a fine, golden grain. Hard wood and solid that would make admirable furniture that would impress everyone with his art and skill.

A poor man who lived close to the earth saw enough firewood there to keep his family warm through a long winter, to fuel the stove that would belch out pan after pan of biscuits, to give a soft light and take the sharp edge of darkness off the bitter night.

An artist saw grace expressing itself in every elegant twist of limb, in every shadow cast by fat green boughs, in billowing verdure swept across a backdrop of sky and cloud. Her palette came to life with color, and shape and form fastened themselves to her canvas, and she captured a reflection of the image of the tree – and she saw that it was good.

A civil engineer saw an obstacle to his project, an object that must be removed and carried away so progress could be made – until the plans for the highway route changed, and the tree didn’t matter anymore.

A philosopher pondered the tree and saw the mystical Tree – Plato’s Real Tree, but perhaps not the tree itself. It was something to think about, something aesthetically exquisite.

A local historian thought about all the generations of folk that had passed by since the tree had crept from its acorn and established itself on the edge of town, how many significant events had taken place, and this tree (much like the ancient turtles of the Galapagos) had been alive through them all – and still lived.

The birds and the squirrels saw shelter and food, but there was nothing remarkable about that – there were countless other trees (oak, poplar, hickory, maple, and otherwise) that would provide the same thing.

Perhaps the saddest of all were those who never even saw the tree. Their eyes were fastened onto other things, things less permanent, but always more important than a “dumb tree”.

To the tree none of this really mattered. All that really mattered was the little boy who came almost every day to sit beneath its shade, to run his fingers across its bark, to fondle its leaves, to tell it all of his secrets, all of his dreams. The tree became part of the boy, and the boy part of the tree in a mystical bond more mysterious than even the philosopher was able to apprehend.

And they both live to this day, ages hence – tree and boy, boy and tree. Happy is the one who understands this parable of the tree, and saddest of all the one who can not see.

Comfort...Reflections from My Journal

Thanksgiving day is nearing, and with it, like Christmastime that gallops in on its heels, memories of holidays past... places we've spent those times before, and the people with whom we've spent them, places and people in many cases no longer here, and in all cases no longer the same. One of those significant places for me is my boyhood home in Hillsboro, Georgia, and one of the most significant people is my mama. Holidays tend, in many ways, to make me more uncomfortable than happy. It's not all bad, because there are certainly new memories to carve out this holiday. But the past, like omnipresent Dicken's ghosts, is always haunting the present -- and the future. Here is an entry from my journal from a few months ago that helps put this in perspective -- and indeed gives me comfort:

Saturday, July 14, 2007 (3:07 a.m.)

Some things just don’t feel comfortable anymore. Like my boyhood home. I have very fond memories, but I also remember how uncomfortable the place had become when we’d go up to visit Mama. The beds were uncomfortable, and the arrangement of the house just didn’t appeal to the gentler senses.

It was Mama, and it was me. That’s what made the place special. Those walls and floors and the space within was sacred. But it was the presence of certain people through the years that hallowed them, not any innate virtue.

The spaces have been taken from me – the sacred floors and walls desecrated by the business exchange of a sale. Yet the spaces within me – one might call them memories, but they are something more…much more – are still pure and true. There is something real and eternal that transpired in the mundane act of growing up and making a life my own way that inhabits the spaces that I have brought with me. They’re no longer “up the road a piece, in another county” – they are with me all the time.

I take great comfort in that, but it has taken lots of time for that comfort to settle in. It's still far from complete, but its real presence is clear – like the Spirit of Christ in the Eucharist.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

A World Without Us

There is a fascinating discussion on today’s Dennis Prager Show with author Alan Weisman, who has written a book called The World Without Us, an imaginative look at what would happen to the world if all of a sudden humans disappeared. Dennis asked what the first most noticeable characteristic of a humanless world would be, and Weisman replied, “The sounds.” He says the noises of human activity would disappear and all that would be left would be the sounds of wind and rain and birds.

He goes on to explain he isn’t anti-human, he just wished there were places we could go where we could hear the sound of nature without the background hum of human activity. Most of the places that people went to in the 50s and 60s when he and Dennis (and I, for that matter) were growing up are now strip malls and industrial complexes. Weisman says as a journalist he has been fortunate enough to travel to places that are still pristine (my word, not his), but he had to travel a long way. He mentioned the Arctic and Antarctic, and Dennis, who has been to Antarctica interjected that while that may be so, he was amazed at how noisy penguins were. Weisman agreed, and he also commented that when you get close, they are also very smelly.

Most of us are relegated to experiencing our visits to pristine locations vicariously, through photographs and video images. Something we don’t always remember while we’re admiring the breathtaking majesty are the noises and smells associated with the location and its wildlife, geothermal extrusions, and what have you. Not to mention the dangers.

This makes me appreciate the Internet so much more. The past few days not only have I engaged in communication with people and places around the country and around the world, but I have visited spots throughout the solar system and traveled into deep space via images from the Hubble Space Telescope and various space probes. I've even been able to listen to Saturn and some of its moons! (I wrote about this before in a previous blog -- take a look Space Music. And for more about my fascination with space, take a look at Space...What a Wonder!)

About a world free of humans – I'm voting against that one. I'm rather partial to humans. But I am fascinated with those spots where our presence is missing – except by imagination.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Write Gyro

Earlier today, while at work, I wrote some journal entries on loose-leaf, and – as is so often the case – I bemoaned my lack of writing progress, and I just wanted to analyze that here for a while. I am inflicted with a serious writing avoidance gyro that diverts me from most of the opportunities available for me to write. since it has never shown up on any of the many MRIs or CAT scans I’ve had across the years, I’m not sure where that gizmo is physically located, and prospects of having it surgically removed are practically nil. The only solution I see is to implant another gyro – one that pushes me into writing opportunities, even when none seemingly exist. The new gyro I will simply label as “Write Gyro”, and the old gyro will be hereinafter known as “Wrong Gyro”. Hence my new mission will be to discriminate continuously between “Write” and “Wrong” and always to follow what is “Write”.

There are many avoidance behaviors that lead me down the “Wrong” path:

Problem – I surf obscure points on the Internet that, although sometimes seem interesting (but much of the time do not), do little to enrich my time. It furthermore occurs to me that I frequently use these diversions as an alternative to stimulation. I become passive letting the Internet do most of my thinking for me.

Solution – Actually, there are two. First of all, I could altogether avoid random surfing – which will be incredibly hard to do, since I have a terrible case of OCD. Second, and preferable, in my opinion, is to dialog with what I find, to use it to let my fingers return to the keyboard and chase down thoughts as I form words in my word processor. Much like stream of consciousness writing, this could be called “stream of consciousness surfing”.

Problem – Snood! For those who may not know, Snood is a computer game that you can download for free. If you want to play unlimited games (and I don’t exaggerate), you pay a one-time fee and have a lifetime access code. Snood begins with rows and columns of colorful Snoods in 4 shapes and varieties, and you have a Snood launcher with which you aim and launch a Snood toward the wall of Snoods. Three in a row, and they vanish, and when you remove a row of Snoods holding others, they drop, thus clearing the way deeper into the wall of Snoods. The more you drop off, rather than just make vanish, the more your launcher is re-charged. If your power goes dry, the wall descends toward you one level. The object is to clear out the entire wall of Snoods. There are several levels, Child, Easy, Medium, Difficult, and Evil being the basic (I always play the Evil level, because I want to battle against evil). This is really a game of strategy, and it is actually categorized as an educational game – but it is also addicting. Now to defend myself, I mostly play Snood while I’m listening to audio, because I can’t do one thing at a time. I was an obsessive multi-tasker before the term was coined.

Solution – Instead of dropping Snoods, drop letters. Approach a little playful writing like dropping Snoods. Get addicted! Loose all inhibitions and let the words pile up. Let audio stimulate thoughts and reactions. It actually does anyway, but I just need to respond. Active listening taken to a new level.

Problem – The myriad distractions: the kids who keep barging in to tell me about the latest micro-detail of a videogame I’ve never heard of, or who decide there’s a shirt I must wash “right now”, or who want to know why there are no clean glasses (I’m obviously the only one in the house who can wash a glass). The piles of clutter (because I’m obviously the only one in the house who can pick up anything weighing over 5 milligrams – especially if it’s lying in the middle of the walkway through the house), etc.

Solution – I could move and not leave a forwarding address, but I’m sort of very, very attached to this bunch of folks around here. I could pick up a baseball bat, slam it into my open hand while growling and letting foamy saliva drip from my face, but that one doesn’t scare them anymore. But the only thing that is going to work here is – focus. Pick up what I can. Listen for a reasonable amount of time, but then let it be known I’m a video game know-nothing and always will be (at least about any games beyond Snood) and I’m very comfortable in the skin of a video game know-nothing. But – stay at it and WRITE.

Follow the “Write Gyro”, and in the end everything should come out all write.

NaNoWriMo progress: Ha ha ha ha ha...! Seriously, just over 23,000 words behind at this point, which means I need to come up with just over 48,000 words before November 30th becomes history. 3000 words a day will do it!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Sunset on Mars

I was just listening to and watching the enhanced pictures from a podcast called Riding with Rockets, a wonderful podcast featuring reports and images from non-manned space probes in deep space. The images are quite often breathtaking, but one in particular almost brought me to tears – sunset on Mars. I’ve looked up the image on the Internet and found it at the NASA image site. The picture was taken by the Mars Exploration Rover Spirit on May 19, 2005. Wow! It almost gives the impression of a sunset on the Mediterranean overlooking some Greek isle.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Update, NaNoWriMo, etc...

Wow! I didn't intend to be away from my blog this long! Good news about my brother. He went home today! It's been a long several weeks. Thanks to all who've been holding us in your thoughts and prayers.

I've come down with another respiratory illness of some sort, so I've been feeling rotten and didn't go to visit my brother this weekend. The last thing he needs is some cruddy bug to infect him while he's so weak and vulnerable.

I met with some friends of mine yesterday at the Blackbird Cafe in downtown Milledgeville to discuss books and NaNoWriMo. Don't know what that is? It's the official abbreviation for National Novel Writing Month. This is an annual event beginning November 1st and ending November 30th. The goal is to write at least 50,000 words toward a novel. There are no rules about how or what to write -- just write! I've decided to shoot for 10,000 words between now and then, so my goal will be to add at least 50,000 words and have a solid working first draft for a novel. The group of friends with whom I met yesterday plans to meet once a week to encourage each other, see what the others are doing, and to hold each other accountable. I'm excited about this.

If you're interested, check out the official NaNoWriMo website and sign up today. I'd love to hear from you if you decide to take the challenge.

~ Jim

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The latest on my brother...

My brother has improved, but we all still have a long road ahead. They removed the ventilator and feeding tubes last Saturday night. He was able to talk with us some, but it was very hard to understand him most of the time. By the next evening, he was able to have some liquids. He has been in a good humor and understands what happened and has been busy catching up with the news. They moved him from ICU to a room a couple of days ago, but he is still unable to do a lot for himself. They've had physical/occupational therapists working with him as he tries to regain strength enough to hold a cup or eating utensil. Somebody has to stay with him 24 hours a day. This weekend I'm planning on staying around the clock so my niece can have a break. Meanwhile, catching up on the chores around here has been occupying a lot of time. Both lawnmowers were broken -- I finally got the push mower repaired and was able to cut some of the grass before we were declared a national forest. My office renovation has been on hold, so I'm still without my books, papers, etc. being readily accessible. We're just taking things one day at a time right now, and we're incredibly glad to have Brac with us still.

For those continuing to think about us and pray for us -- and for Brac in particular -- thanks!

Next week Cris is out of school and will have surgery on her knee, so it will be another busy week. She talked about putting it off, but I told her she needs to go ahead and have it done. We'll manage. Hopefully, in spite of everything, I will be able to get back into a regular routine with my blogging very soon.


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Update on my brother...

Today they were able to remove Brac from the ventilator for about three hours. He was very calm (they were concerned that he might have to be restrained, but they don't know what a tough and great guy my brother is). He had a dialysis treatment yesterday and will have another tomorrow. He is off the sedative and is on pain medication, and I'm sure his throat will be very sore after having all those tubes in there. At this point we are optimistic. He's so much better than he was a couple of days ago. We're still facing a long road, but if we get to keep him a while longer and let him know how much we love him, I'm set for the journey.

Thanks for all the prayers and expressions of concern!

~ Jim

Sunday, September 16, 2007

My Brother

For those checking for new blog entries, I apologize that I haven't added anything since Wednesday. I was working on some new things to post, but on Thursday I got bad news, and practically every minute since then has been occupied.

My brother was taken to the Middle Georgia Regional Medical Center in Macon, Georgia, by ambulance from church on Wednesday night. He's had congestive heart failure episodes in the past, plus he has other medical issues, and he realized that something wasn't right. Someone called 911, and he was taken to the hospital.

Somewhere in the hospital while being moved from one location to another, he stopped breathing and his heart stopped. CPR was started in under a minute, and after 5 minutes they had a pulse. I didn't know this was going on. Thursday my niece called and told us he was in ICU and his kidneys were shutting down.

I was afraid of the worst as we drove over to Macon Thursday afternoon, but my brother has been making some slow progress. He is still in ICU, and he has a variety of problems. He is still sedated and on a respirator, but they hope to wean him off the respirator. So far medication has his kidneys working, but there is still a chance that they may have to start dialysis tomorrow. At any rate, he -- and we -- have a long road ahead. He is still a very sick man.

My bother, Brac, is 18 years older than I, and he's been like a second father to me. In the future I plan to blog about my brother so those of you who don't know him can meet a kind, talented, and funny man, a man that I'm proud to be related to. He means the world to me, and I'm not ready to give him up. I've been reliving so many memories, and I've shed gallons of tears. This and all the peripheral logistical issues are presenting the family with some tough challenges, so please keep us all in your prayers.

~ Jim

Thursday, September 13, 2007

A Few Teasers from My Writing Notebooks...

I was just glancing through some bits and pieces that I've transcribed from my writing notebooks (a generous title considering these are collected odds and ends, brief snatches of inspiration, loose papers stuffed into manila folders) onto the computer, typing them and saving them in word processor files so I have them more readily at my disposal. I just thought I'd share a few that I was looking at and thinking about revisiting and developing a little bit -- maybe a story or two will evolve. There is something about each of these that I like (even as I'm aware of the flaws in these small blurbs). They are unpolished, shared here just as I jotted them down -- all of them were scribbled down in early 2004:

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Piece 1:

She strolled down the green garden path among flowers blazing with color -- hollyhocks, zinnias, marigolds and petunias. It was deep summer, and the warm humid breeze carried the sound of screaming insects. Most of the garden spread underneath the full sun, but here and there around the edges the shadows of oak and pecan limbs danced a lazy gray rhythm.

She bent down and smelled a scarlet blossomed petunia. The smell of petunias carried her away to her childhood days at her grandmother’s. The fragrance of life was so thick she could taste it, feel it, embrace it. She had always loved flowers, trees and all growing things. She was sensitive and felt things very deeply, far more deeply than most folks, so she was thought of by some as odd.

She came around a bend in the path, and on the ground lay a dead kitten, a yellow tabby. Its fur was damp and there were clumps of froth on it. She bent down and almost touched the poor thing, but she leapt up with a start. "Mad dog!" she thought. The town crazy was ranting at the general store this morning about a mad dog, but everybody dismissed his testimony as another delusion.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Piece 2:

Mike was four years old, and he came strolling into the kitchen and climbed onto one of the tall chairs with the enthusiasm of a rock climber scaling a cliff. He stood on the chair so he could see over the counter to his mother, and so she could see him.

“Wallace is gone again.”

“Wallace will be back dear.”

Wallace was a battered old teddy bear that Mike had taken to when he was about two years old. It had belonged to an uncle when he was a boy, and the uncle had given it to Mike since he was childless himself. Soon afterwards the uncle drove over an embankment and was killed. He was drunk at the time, although nobody ever remembered him being much of a drinker.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Piece 3:

Nelson sat on the patio in a battered blue bathrobe, smoking a cigar [specific] and reading the newspaper [specific]. He had on a pair of black socks and brown leather slippers. He had slept lousy. All night he thought about the double-cross. That troubled him. The murder did not.

Monday, September 10, 2007


A stream-of-consciousness exercise. I do very little running anymore, but sometimes I miss it -- and other times I thank God I can just sit here and remember doing it:
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Breathe, just breathe. Breath goes deep, it feels so cold it burns – my side hurts, the sharp stab of an oxygen deprived stitch – (come on, you can describe running better than this!) – step, step, tap, tap, one foot out, then the other, pace yourself, just be absorbed in the moment, don’t think about the distance, pay no attention to what’s far off, it only makes it worse – Zen it out, live in the moment, oh God, I’m going to puke – oh it hurts – my mouth is sticky, I can’t swallow my spit – ka whoo – I spit it out, end over end, a white bubbly sticky goo – water, I could drink a bucket, I could suck on a fire hydrant.

Running on the beach, the sand gives way, but it gives no traction, but I feel I could run for days running in the desert at night – in the smooth cool dry desert evening, I get my second wind and I could run all night. I don’t want to stop. I just want to run, to feel the breeze from my speed, to feel the air, its smooth, slow rhythm, in-and-out of my lungs – past my nose, into my windpipe, life-giving molecules crammed into my lungs so tightly I feel I may explode – to feel my heartbeat – I’m so alive; this is a moment of existential perfection (what do I know about existentialism? – learn!), a battle against nihilism, a defiant strutting sneer at existential angst – the extreme moment of knowing, the moment of extreme knowing – I run, I breathe, I hurt, I keep going, I breathe some more, I feel the universe sail past and I know that I am.

[Picture - Attic Black Figure Lekythos, ca. 550 BC, depicting two racing runners. University of Pennsylvania Museum Object ID MS739.]

Sunday, September 9, 2007

The Remodeling – So Far...

Well... so much for having the office finished and being moved in by this weekend. New goal – by next weekend. Progress is happening though, in spite of the ever-present effects of Murphy's Law. Anything that can go wrong... yep, it usually will. For instance, the other day I unplugged my computer, as I always do before I leave the house, and the entire socket pulled out of the wall.

This is an old house, and there is nothing normal about it. There's not a single square corner anywhere. So remodeling and repairs become major expeditions into the vast wilds of patience. Replacing the electrical outlet, for instance. People who know (supposedly) gave me advice about how to cut out the sheetrock and how the outlet box would be nailed to the stud in the wall. Well... I cut the sheetrock, and the outlet box is not nailed to a stud. There's not even a stud near it. There are two parallel pieces of wood running horizontally, and the outlet box was screwed in between these pieces of wood. Cris had picked up two different boxes at Lowe's for me, while I was at work, and – as Mr. Murphy's venerable principle would have it – neither fit. A return trip to Lowe's yielded a box that would work, with some tweaking, and I got the new outlet wired up and into the new box and the box snugly attached to the boards. But... (and there's always one of those) the sheetrock didn't go back on the same way it came off. For some reason, it wasn't flush with the wall – it was sunken in about a quarter of an inch, or so. Soooo... I had to build (actually, am still building) it back up with sheetrock mud. That means that wall will be about three days behind the others – and final clean up and the reuniting of my books, papers, and notes and reference materials for various writing projects will not take place for several more days yet.

This has been a learning experience, though. I have learned that I absolutely hate working with sheetrock, deplore painting, and find replacing electrical circuitry a pain in the backside! I've learned that being surrounded by books rather than drop cloths and paint buckets is more my cup of tea. But it doesn't look like it's going to be tea time for several more days. Cold scones, anyone?

[Pictures of the same corner – the first is from yesterday morning and the second from this evening. See... some progress is being made.]

Monday, September 3, 2007

Labor Day -- and I've Been Laboring

It's Labor Day, and Patrick (my youngest) had a good question. Why is it called Labor Day when everybody is off from work? Chalk that question up as another of the imponderables like, "What is the meaning of life?" and "Where did we come from?" I, however, while off from my regular job, spent the day working nonetheless.

This weekend and holiday have been spent patching, sanding, and priming the walls of my office. The fumes are still potent, but I'm still trying to get in some other work. Tomorrow, hopefully, I can get some painting done. I'm ready to get my office put back together (but better) -- my bookshelves and books and papers and the various miscellanea of trying to write will hopefully be better accessible and better organized, and the office will definitely look a whole lot better.

Although the work on the house is just beginning, so finishing the office won't be the end of the work around here, hopefully when it is finished I can get my blogging routine back on track. I've already been asked what's happened to the Revelation blogs? Well -- they will be revealed... in time. I've got lists of topics I want to address that I hope will be enlightening, informative, and entertaining. They're on a piece of paper amidst other pieces of paper that are presently stacked in my bedroom, along with a couple of thousand books and stacks of notebooks and stuffed file folders.

Hope you've all had a happy and safe Labor Day.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

38 Questions

A friend had posted these questions on a MySpace bulletin, and I thought I'd answer them and post them here. I get varieties of these things via MySpace and e-mail all the time. Feel free to copy and paste and send me your own answers to these questions. This gives a little (maybe too much) more insight into this strange blogger whose stuff you're reading.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

1. Do you know anyone in prison?

One of my best friends from childhood is serving a 20 year sentence. Not to mention I teach inmates at a state prison -- so I personally know lots of people in prison.

2. Have you ever logged onto a boyfriend/girlfriend/crush's MySpace? wife's -- but only to help her set up her account, because she is essentially helpless when it comes to the computer. I know her password, but I'd never log on without her consent.

3. When is the last time you ate peanut butter and jelly?

A couple of days ago. I love 'em.

4. Do you have a desk in your room?

My bedroom? Nope -- but I plan to rearrange and put one in there.

5. Have you ever gotten naked at a party?

No...but the last time I was ever drunk (about 25 years ago) at a Halloween party for cast members of a play I was in, I went to sleep in the bathtub upstairs, woke up to the sound of tinkling, sat up, heard a girl scream, and lay back down and went back to sleep. I was wearing a tux.

6. What kind of car insurance do you have?

Nationwide -- been with them for twenty something years.

7. Are you named after one of your parents or grandparents?

Named "James" (Jim) after my Grandpa Jim Bohannon -- middle name is Oscar, after my daddy -- and Bohannon after thousands of Irish ancestors.

8. Does your first significant other still live in the same town as you?

No -- if you mean my first serious love, she lives in Monticello, Georgia (as far as I know). My first wife lives in California (as far as I know -- haven't heard from her in a couple of decades or so).

9. Do you throw up gang signs?

I wouldn't recognize a gang sign if somebody nailed it to a post and stuck it in front of my face, so I sure hope not.

10. Have you ever broken a rib?

One of mine? Nope.

11. Would you rather be a girl or a guy?

I've never been a girl, but I don't have any desire to be one. Not that I have anything against girls -- I like them a LOT!

12. Who is the most spoiled person you know?

The person is a minor, and I'm not going to say.

13. Would you rather have a million dollars or true love?

True love. Every time I have money, I end up giving a lot away and spending the rest catching up on necessities. It's just not a priority.

14. Have you ever had sex in church?

Heck no!

15. Is your boyfriend/girlfriend a marine?

No... but my wife's husband is a Marine! OOH RAH!!!

16. Do you watch the Grammy's?

I don't watch TV period. As far as the Grammy's, I'm not interested in the multi-billion dollar music industry -- I listen to a lot of indy stuff.

17. Would you ever work for the border patrol?

No quiero trabajar con el Border Patrol de los Estados Unidos!

18. Which one word would describe your last relationship.

Forever. (It's still going strong!)

19. Would you rather date someone 2 years older than you or 20 years?

Somebody 20 years older than me? Maybe 20 years younger. ;^) (If I wasn't currently attached.)

20. Have you ever had an eating disorder?

Yes... there have been times when I didn't know when to quit! But those that make you skinny -- nope.

21. Do you have a porn collection?

Hmmm... let's see -- I have Sons and Lovers and Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D. H. Lawrence, as well as Nathaniel Hawthorne's Scarlet Letter. Do those count? Oh... somewhere, I have a book on sensual massage for lovers (naughty, but nice).

22. How many proms have you been to in your life?

One -- and it wasn't mine. I don't think my school even had one.

23. Have you ever been in an inter-racial relationship?

Nope. I've just never been romantically attracted that way. Don't know why.

24. Is your birthday on a holiday?

No... but by golly, it should be!

25. Are you old enough to vote?

Unfortunately, yes -- and those idiots at the courthouse use the voter registration list to call me for jury duty about once a year. I believe in doing my fair share, but c'mon -- I have people tell me they haven't been called in years! (I know -- you just asked if I was old enough -- not about all the peripheral baggage attached... sorry.)

26. Do you have any friends or family in the War right now?

Yes, I do.

28. Do you worry about global warming?

Not at all. I think it's over-politicized and over-hyped, and I don't agree with the politically-correct, Al Gore version at all. I worry about real stuff -- like how to fill my gas tank to get to work and Islamic terrorism and what I'm going to write for my next blog entry.

29. Do you like polar bears?

I love Klondike Bars, and I just ate one, and there's a picture of a polar bear on the Klondike Bar wrapper, so I guess I'd have to say... yes, I like polar bears.

30. Do think it is worse to cheat or steal?

It's worse to steal, but I really deplore both -- strongly!

31. What kind of birth control do you use?

HA HA HA HA HA!!! Oh, were you serious?

32. What slang word(s) do you call marijuana?

Stupid -- idiotic -- foolish -- and other such words.

33. Are you an atheist?

Nope. And I don't believe in atheists.

34. Did you lose your virginity to your neighbor?


35. Did or do you think your childhood dreams will come true?

Well... I wanted to meet the Beatles (I'm listening to them right now) -- that one won't come true. I wanted to date Eve Plumb (Jan Brady) -- that one won't come true. I wanted to marry the most wonderful girl in all the world and have the most gorgeous children and grandchildren one day -- that one came true.

36. Do you wear your sweetie's clothes?

You've been peeking in the window, haven't you! How did you know? I sometimes wear a bra like an aviator's cap. I think it looks cool! I only wear dresses on special occasions, though. (I have a bizarre sense of humor -- and yes, I will slip something on to see how long it takes somebody around here to notice.)

37. What's your opinion on gold diggers?

Can't stand ulterior motives of any kind! Especially using people for selfish ends.

38. Are you a country or city girl/boy?

I'm a country boy with certain city sensibilities. I wouldn't want to live in the city, but I wouldn't like to know I couldn't ever visit there.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007


We went to Parris Island, South Carolina, this past Friday to watch a friend of ours graduate from Marine Corps boot camp. We didn't spend as much time on the Island as I wanted, because we met up with friends and went to eat lunch with them. After lunch we drove past the Beaufort, South Carolina, Marine Corps Air Station, where I was stationed for several months while I was training to become an avionics technician.

Being in Beaufort brought back many memories, but one set of memories in particular -- memories of drawing. It was while I was stationed in Beafort that I became fascinated with drawing cartoons. I bought dozens upon dozens of comic books, everything from Spiderman to Richie Rich to Disney comics, because I was determined to study the characters and practice drawing them. Sitting in my barracks on my lunch break one day, I drew my very first picture of spiderman, and I was hooked.

For a brief time, I decided I wanted to become of cartoonist, even though I had no formal art training at all. It was a dream I toted seriously for a while, then rather loosely in my back pocket for a longer while, and eventually gave up altogether. But I've still enjoyed phases of drawing. When I began substitute teaching in local schools in the late 90's, I started drawing again. I would draw pictures on the board -- Scooby Doo, Tweety Bird, Winnie the Pooh (those seemed to be the most popular). With elementary school classes, I would draw a picture based on a story we'd read, and all the students would gather around utterly fascinated, then they'd retreat anxious to try their own drawing.

Sometimes I still long to draw again, but so many other things intrude to occupy the time. My determination to be a cartoonist has long since waned into the obscurity of distant memory, but I still love cartoon characters, and I guess (hope) I'll never outgrow this pleasant, mild obsession.

[A sampling of my various doodles through the years -- Groo the Wanderer, Pebbles Flintstone with her teddy bear, Underdog, an unnamed alligator character of my own creation, and Snoops the cat .]

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Parris Island Bound

Tomorrow afternoon, our plans are to head to the Days Inn in Ridgeland, South Carolina, where we will spend the night in anticipation of a visit to Parris Island on Friday morning. For anyone who may not know, Parris Island is the home of Marine Corps boot camp (there's another in San Diego, California, but Parris Island is where I graduated on September 22, 1976).

A friend of ours, Chris Redding, will be graduating Friday morning, and we plan to be there. We are very proud of this young man -- becoming a Marine has been a dream of his for a long time, and now it's about to happen.

It was on June 28, 1976, that I rode onto Parris Island on a chartered Greyhound bus full of nervous young men not knowing what to expect. Six of us had left Atlanta earlier in the day and met up with the rest of the group from around the country at the airport in Charleston. We hit the Island about 9:30 that night, and we were promtply greeted by a nice gentleman who began shouting in a deep raspy voice that if we had tobacco or gum, we'd better swallow it, and directed us to get off the bus and get on the infamous yellow footprints. Thus began my 13 week ordeal of being broken down from a soft civilian and re-built as a lean, mean fighting machine -- a United States Marine, and I wouldn't take anything for the experience.

This will be my first trip back to Parris Island in 30 years, and I'm very excited. I've been looking at the web site, the Google Map, and other associated web sites, and the memories have left me teary-eyed more than once. Parris Island is where I was born as a Marine, and this is like a homecoming. And I'm looking forward to meeting Christopher Redding, fellow United States Marine!


Sunday, August 19, 2007

Information Indigestion

In David Denby’s Great Books on page 36 he writes about following stories on CNN, watching updates even when awakened in the middle of the night. He concludes “the business of being ‘informed’ could be nightmarish...” He compares it to feeling like “a ball rolling over and over, or the hands of a clock coming back to the same point.” This is a fair representation, I think, of being so saturated and bombarded with information all the time that there is little genuine reflection. We have come to mistake information for knowledge -- and worse yet, for wisdom. Undigested information is neither, and too much information can give one a severe case of indigestion. That is one problem with the Internet. It is a wonderful source of information, but it’s too easy to become infatuated with the frantic flow of information and neglect reflection.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Rain...Beautiful Rain

We are sweltering away in 100 + degree heat and have been for days on end. Cris and I worked in the house doing a lot of cleaning, getting rid of lots of junk, and trying to get the house back to normal -- or as close to it as we can hope to get. Even working inside is hot. I've been covered in sweat most of the day and have taken two showers. I'm longing for cool weather -- and for rain; it's incredibly dry as well as hot. Even the kudzu that covers acres of Georgia roadside is turning brown and dying.

I was taking a look though old journals again and came across an entry that made me feel good. It's about rain.


Thursday, August 12, 2004 (around 10:20 a.m.)

There is rain today, lots of rain. The sky is an absolutely whitish-gray, and the trees across the street are muffled by a watery gray veil. I am sitting at the bedroom window facing the front yard with an open window before me. The sounds are wonderful – the loud continuous splash of water running off the house to my left, the lighter whir of rain on leaves and yard, and a backdrop of occasional distant muted bass crashes of thunder.

I left the lights off – I’m writing by the soft gray light slipping in through the window. I didn’t want the sharp white-yellow artificial incandescence to intrude. I need a little time with the rain and my memories. There is something about a solid rainy day that nudges gentle memories – memories of rainy days in other times and places.

Elizabeth is like me, she loves the rain. She is not here – she is in Howard with the Garcias. I wonder if she is enjoying the rain today.

Suddenly, I’m a little boy, standing on my knees on the settee, looking out through the rain across our little front yard, across the road, out across Mrs. Mamie Wynens property to the trees beyond. I am snug in a little gray-green world, nestled in the shadows in a secure place.

I am at Parris Island – Marine Corps boot camp. We are at the rifle range waiting to see if the rain will let up. It never does. We have on our green plastic ponchos, but we’re all pretty much soaked through. I’m snug in the rain. It makes the world almost sane again.

I lift my head and look out the window at one of the nandinas. I used to deplore these tacky bushes standing like stubborn guards in front of our house. Today, though, I look at the rain dancing with the leaves, the silvery light reflecting off the wet greenness, and I love this plant. It is suddenly beautiful.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

By the Numbers

It occurred to me a few weeks ago as I was talking with someone about some of my favorite movies that there was a common theme -- mathematics: A Beautiful Mind, about a brilliant mathematician dwelling in an imaginary world of spies and secret codes created by his paranoid schizophrenia; Proof, about the daughter of a renowned mathematician whose life and career succumbed to a cruel mental illness, and she appears to be the inheritor of his genius and, she fears, his craziness, as she reluctantly confesses that she is the author of one of the most elegant and phenomenal mathematical proofs in recent history; and Good Will Hunting, in which Matt Damon makes his stellar debut as a tough street kid working as a janitor at MIT who sneaks into the mathematics department at night to solve complicated equations that have stumped even the most brilliant students in the department.

There is something inherently and deeply fascinating to me about mathematics. This is amazing considering that in high school I barely squeaked by in my math courses. That, however, was more closely related to my attitude towards school in general, and math in particular, and my firm resistance to homework or studying. It was in college where my affinity for mathematics first shone like a light in the darkness of my math anxiety, and not only could I do math, but I could do it well; not only did I understand math, but I loved it.

With the bad taste of high school still fresh in my mouth, I dreaded the required college algebra course. When it became inevitable that I would have to take it, I called a buddy of mine who was a math major and got his assurance that he'd be standing by if I got into a jam. I never called him back. Over the course of the ensuing quarter, I consistently made A's on homework, quizzes, and exams; the lowest grade I earned was a 93.

Nobody could have been more stunned about this than I, but I listened in class, took notes, read and studied the textbook, and best of all -- I got it! I even liked it -- liked it so much, as a matter of fact, that I discussed with my professor the possibility of changing my major to math (which I never did). The final exam was an interdepartmental final, which meant the exam was created communally by the five professors teaching the course that quarter. Dr. Mayberry cautioned us that we might encounter unfamiliar material, but not to worry, since different professors had not covered all the same material, and that would be considered in assigning final grades.

Since I had, in my own reading and studying, actually covered more material than we'd covered in class, I hoped I would be prepared. The students from all five classes gathered in Russell Auditorium to take the exam. Two hours later I walked out drained but exuberant. I was confident I had done well, but I was still shocked when the exam grades were posted: I had scored a perfect 100!

In my current vocation, I teach inmates in a state prison. For most of my Adult Basic Education and GED prep students, math is the subject they most often dread -- even fear -- but we have a great record of success. It is a source of continuous reward when working with these men, many who've been failures all their lives, when that light goes on and they get it. From time to time a student will even light up my heart by saying, "This is fun!"

Mathematics has become transformed in my judgment from a once mysterious and frightening subject to an avenue of tremendous beauty and delight. There is much that I don't understand, and I still study new areas of math, but I'm grateful that I see even the mystery of that which I don't yet understand as something of wonder and beauty. I'm reminded of the verse in the Bible, "Perfect love casteth out all fear." No longer do I fear math; I love it.

Friday, August 10, 2007

From the Writing Journal -- Assymetry and Pain

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Once I was a little boy playing barefoot on the clover beneath maple trees beside a sleepy small-town street, but that was so long ago and so far away. Sometimes, especially late at night, I try to reach out across the cosmos and grab that time again, to pull myself back toward it, but other times I just catch a glance back, like watching scenery sail away through a rear window.

The hog feeder lids tapped the night away in asymmetrical rhythms, and it made me regret living with a man [my father] who found joy in raising animals, and it made me feel sorry for the hogs, and I quit eating ham or bacon, because I never knew if this might be an animal I had known, or perhaps a distant offspring. So early on I decided the farm life was not for me, and I concluded Oliver Wendell Douglas was one deluded son-of-a-bitch wanting to leave a wealthy law firm for a dirt farm.


Asymmetry – the fusion of disparate shapes into an awkward montage that, nevertheless, was continuously leading the eye in all sorts of pleasing directions.

Monday, August 06, 2007

I should just pour my heart out while it is full – full of hurt and confusion, full of dismay – I am grieving, grieving because of those who withdraw their lives from me. They are not dead, but they have pulled out of my life, so I am heartbroken – I am grieving, I am in mourning, my heart hurts to badly it feels as if it might burst, it feels so heavy that it just might fall and never get up. That is how I feel. How do you describe a feeling of such utter pain in a way that someone else can feel it. That’s the gift I need as a writer, the gift to be able to take someone else by the hand and lead them into the place where I am. First of all, I suppose I need to explore the place myself, because exploration can perhaps lead to understanding and healing.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

The Wayback Machine -- "An old Beatle's Romance"

In the year 2000, just two years after the death of his beloved Linda, Paul McCartney found love again. Of course, we know how that relationship turned into a sour mess, and Sir Paul's name was dragged through the mud by the media, but there are many of us who believe he is a true gentleman, as well as a legend.

I grew up in the 60's feasting on each new Beatle album, and listening to their music today still transports me to a magical place. When Paul found a new love just a couple of years after Linda's death, some people were critical. My comment on March 18, 2000 (ironically my wife's birthday) was "I'm glad Paul has found somebody. I don't see a thing wrong with it either. Boy...I feel a story coming on..."

Here is the story -- replete with references to Beatles' song titles and lyrics. See if you can figure out the references. Hope you have fun with it!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

He saw her standing there -- Long Tall Sally. She was just seventeen. He wanted to say something, but the words wouldn't come. Finally he eased up beside her and whispered, "Listen...Do You Want to Know a you promise not to tell?" His heart melted. He stuttered, but got out the words, "I Wanna Hold Your Hand!" She smiled and offered him her dainty palm. It was instant love. With soft music it seemed always playing in the background they romped like school kids (well...she was a school kid) in Strawberry Fields for what seemed like forever.

Well, the days grew into weeks, the weeks into months, and their love grew. One day he looked into her eyes and said, "I can't believe we have been together for all these months. It seems like we met just Yesterday!" He got on his knee and asked her to be his bride. The wedding day was wonderful. She had a gorgeous dress made by a talented seamstress named Eleanor Rigby who lived near the church. As she walked gracefully and elegantly down the aisle her heart was Free As a Bird.

The days afterward were very kind. He became a best-selling Paperback Writer and she had a very successful career in marine biology and explored the seas around the world in her Yellow Submarine. They made lots of money which they invested conservatively in CDs. Their accountant, Lew Beethoven suggested when the CDs matured next they might consider
investing in something that would have a better yield, but they felt things were just fine the way they were, so they said, "Money's fine, but Money Can't Buy Me Love. Just let the CDs Roll Over Beethoven."

One afternoon while sitting in a tiny bistro nestled snugly among the quaint shops along Penny Lane, they looked back over their lives together. Sally had never been one to show her emotions very openly, but it was clear she was touched by the romantic moment. He gazed into her eyes and said, "Sally...I Love You!" "Yeah, yeah, yeah!" she replied. In the passion of the moment he poured out his heart and shared the dream that had been sitting at the back of his mind for Eight Days a Week. "Darling, I know it'll be a Long and Winding Road, but I want to start a rock and roll band and move to America and make records and be on the Ed Sullivan Show. What do you think about that?!" Her face sunk, she shook her head and said, "No, Paul, just Let It Be."

There were stirrings of a Revolution in his heart. It must have been stirring in hers too, because the next morning he found a letter on the table saying she was leaving...she needed some space to think. He was confused and restless. He hardly slept that evening. It was a Hard Day's Night, and his mind was working like a dog. The next day he searched all over Kidneypool until he found her listening to Sergeant Pepper's band at the Lonely Heart's Club. He pushed his way to her side and shouted, "I found your Dear John letter. By George, I want my ring-o back!"

She said softly, “Did you read it all?” He stood there a moment before reaching into his pocket. He pulled out the tattered letter and read the last line: “P.S. I Love You!” He stood there and tears welled up in his eyes. He looked up and found tears in her eyes too. The place had grown completely silent until some bloke belted out, “Hey pal, can’t you see...She Loves You!” The chorus erupted, “Yeah, yeah, yeah!” He said, "Baby, without you my life would just be Helter Skelter. Can you take me back?" She grabbed him in a passionate embrace and said, "Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeeeeeaaaaahhhhhh!"

© 2000 Jim Bohannon

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Revelation – Christ Nature - vs - Antichrist

The book of Revelation is considered by many to be one of the main biblical texts of eschatology (the study of "last things"), or "end times" theology. In a later post I will talk about the various viewpoints, historical and contemporary, about how the last days are supposed to pan out according to Christian theology, namely views of the "millenium". First, however, I want to talk about one of the major topics of eschatology, that famous - yet confusing - character known as the antichrist, even though the concept of antichrist is not introduced in Revelation, but in other books:

Dear children, the last hour is here. You have heard that the Antichrist is coming, and already many such antichrists have appeared. From this we know that the last hour has come. (1 John 2:18, New Living Translation)

And who is a liar? Anyone who says that Jesus is not the Christ. Anyone who denies the Father and the Son is an antichrist. (1 John 2:18, New Living Translation)

He will exalt himself and defy everything that people call god and every object of worship. He will even sit in the temple of God, claiming that he himself is God. 2 Thessalonians 2:4 (New Living Translation)

This man will come to do the work of Satan with counterfeit power and signs and miracles. He will use every kind of evil deception to fool those on their way to destruction, because they refuse to love and accept the truth that would save them. 2 Thessalonians 2:9-10 (New Living Translation)

Among historical and contemporary Bible scholars, theologians, and amateur eschatologians, there are various views about who, or what, the antichrist will be, whether antichrist is present, or whether the antichrist will come in the last days, before God's judgment and Christ's reign (if you're not familiar with these theological concepts, don't worry, they're not critical to an understanding of what I will talk about). Some believe antichrist referred to various Roman emperors. The number associated with the antichrist, 666, has been attributed to code meaning Nero, one of the most notorious persecutors of Christians. Nero allegedly blamed Christians for the burning of Rome, and as a result, Christians were burned alive on poles. Some reports claimed the road into rome was sometimes lighted by burning Christians. No doubt, this was an antichrist nature (which I will talk more about later) Others believed various Popes were the antichrist, and others believed antichrist to be certain governments (the Roman government being the first considered as a candidate for antichrist). Still others believe that antichrist is a general spirit that is present in every age. This is essentially my personal view.

Whether one is a Christian or not, Jesus Christ is still one of the amazing individuals of history, and his nature (the Christ nature, I will call it) was exemplified in the way he lived and the way he treated others. This Christ nature is still very present, but the antichrist nature is present as well.

Here are some distinctions that compare the Christ Nature and the Antichrist Nature, and I believe the application to some very contemporary events is clear:

Christ Nature:
Acceptance of all human beings and a desire to see them redeemed, reflected in his love and compassion for everyone.

Antichrist Nature:
Only select people – a certain group, clique, or tribe, are worthy of love or acceptance.
Christ Nature:
Sacrifices himself for others – even “sinners”, those who hate and abuse him.

Antichrist Nature:
Sacrifice themselves to win some heavenly reward – martyrdom becomes self-serving instead of sacrificial.
Christ Nature:
Sacrifices himself to save others.

Antichrist Nature:
Sacrifice themselves to kill and hurt others.
Christ Nature:
Brings peace.

Antichrist Nature:
Brings terror.

Whatever the theological differences about who or what antichrist may be, and whether we are Christians or members of other faiths or members of no faith group at all, it is clear to me that we all have a human duty to exemplify the spirit of Christ, and to overcome the spirit of antichrist.

~ Jim

NOTE: If you're interested in a more detailed historical analysis of antichrist, the Wikipedia article is a pretty good place to start.

[Pictures: Final showdown of Christ and Antichrist by Albrecht Durer, and Jesus Blessing the Children by Benjamin Robert Haydon.]

The Dickens, You Say!

Several years ago, the Book of the Month Club offered a 23 volume set of The Oxford Illustrated Dickens, which claims to contain all of the published works of Charles Dickens. The set was around $350.00, which wasn’t a bad price for 23 nicely produced hardcover books with dust jackets, but I didn’t have the money at the time, so I just dreamed about owning them. Eventually the price went down to $150.00, which was still a lot of money for me to spend at one time on books. Then it happened – a brochure came featuring the Dickens set at $100.00 with free shipping, and I couldn’t resist any longer. It’s a lovely set of books, each one slightly larger in dimension than a paperback, and at the price, I paid less than I would for a comparable set of paperbacks.

I have been intending for the longest time to start at one end of the bookshelf and read all the way across to the last volume, but I haven’t mustered up that kind of discipline yet – or maybe I have. I’ve picked up various volumes and begun reading, relishing Dickens’ delightful mastery of character development and meticulous detail, but now I’ve picked up David Copperfield and started reading it again, and this time I’m determined to go through all 23 volumes. These books are a gold mine chocked full of ore for anybody interested in writing.

For anyone interested in literature and what it can contribute toward an inwardly better, richer, and wiser life, and especially for anyone interested in creating literature of one’s own, there are three writers worthy of regular re-readings, each reading revealing something fresh and wonderful – William Shakespeare, Marcel Proust, and Charles Dickens. Shakespeare is a master of pure story whose plots have influenced countless stories over the past few centuries, Proust is the quintessential guide into the magical wonder of ordinary life, and Dickens excels in capturing humanity and helping us to love it. The advantage of Dickens lies in his accessibility. Shakespeare and Proust take a bit more work than the average reader cares to invest (although the investment carries rich rewards). Dickens, on the other hand, will take you by the hand and lead you like a caring friend into his remarkable world. His loveable characters become intimate friends, and his villains leave you fuming at injustice and unkindness, but you will not walk away from Dickens without being deeply moved – perhaps even changed.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Revelation – yes, that Revelation!

Every so often, we used to get oversized postcards emblazoned with fantastical monsters, horrifying creatures that looked like something you’d see in an old Japanese monster movie, but these postcards weren’t about movies – they were announcements for a local seminar on the book of Revelation. Even though there wasn’t a prominent indication of where these cards came from, they were from the Seventh Day Adventist church. That knowledge alone was enough to let me know what I could expect if I attended one of these seminars, but I never went to one, because I don’t happen to believe Revelation is a scary book at all.

My wife is one of the leaders of the youth group at our church, Hopewell United Methodist, in Milledgeville, and our junior high group has decided to start a Wednesday night Bible study. She came home last Wednesday and told me about it and asked, “Guess which book they want to start with?” Without giving me 66 guesses to run through the list of the canon, she answered her own question, “Revelation!” (Thank goodness she’s aware of one of my big pet peeves and did not call it “Revelations” – the title has no “s” at the end.) Not such a bad choice, in my opinion. After all, it is one of the most mysterious books in the Bible, and probably one of the most alluring, even for non-religious people.

We can all recognize some of the terms and images that find their genesis in Revelation – the Anti-Christ, the Mark of the Beast, the number 666, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, to name a few. Historical and contemporary interpretations are loaded with contradictions and extreme speculation, so what is the real message of Revelation? Even the name seems to be deceptive – in the Greek, the title is “apokalypsis”, which means literally “uncovering”, as to uncover something that has until now been covered so it is in plain sight. Many people would argue that nothing in this book is in plain sight.

I’ve been drafted to help my wife out, and while she'll do the presenting and leading of discussions, I'm planning to do my own updated study and put together some notes in as systematic a manner as I can. It has been several years since I led a Bible study on the book of Revelation at the last church I served as pastor, and one of the greatest compliments I received when it was over was by an elderly gentleman who came up to me, shook my hand, and said, “You know, Preacher, I’ve always been scared of the book of Revelation, but I’m not scared anymore.” I’m going to share this fresh journey I’ll be taking through Revelation here at the blog, and I invite you to come along. If you agree, disagree, or plain don’t understand what I’m talking about, feel free to comment or send me an e-mail. At any rate, I hope when it’s done, you won’t be scared anymore.

~ Jim