• (This is the first picture in a Time photo essay called "Young Michael Jackson at Home." Just click on the picture to view the rest of the series.)
    I'm really not sure what to say. Most of us mourned the loss of Michael Jackson years ago. I'm sure the boy in the picture is, in fact, the Man in the Mirror, forever twelve, always a Lost Boy.

    Whatever horrifying things he did or did not do to himself and others, he's left behind a mind-boggling body of work. He's also left behind three children, and whether my criticism is deserving or not, it's possible those kids have been given a gift through the painful loss of their father. I hope they go to their grandmother and that she lives forever.

    I flipped through the channels tonight and the tube is heavy with retrospectives and tributes. There's a combination of fascination and profound sadness when I see these video clips. That's not new, though. Something about Michael Jackson has always made me feel a little sad, even when he was a little boy. Even as a sometimes-ridiculous grown man he always seemed afraid, breakable.

    In addition to the old video clips there are also legions of talking heads whipping up the frenzied fans like a never-ending opening act. Everyone has something to say whether or not they have anything to say, and they say it over and over again. See? I'm even blogging about it and I'm not anybody.

    At the end of the day, toxicology reports will all come in, folks will point fingers, others will make a fortune from misfortune, and the rest of us will catch "A-B-C" on geezer radio stations as we drive to work and tap the steering wheel while we sing along. Just as we always have.

  • Dear Moleskine,

    I know I've been a tad insistent about this ruled, extra large notebook business. I know I've whined and shaken my fist in the air in frustration. In short, I know I've given you a hard time.

    The last email I received about the rebirth of the XL ruled Soft Cover Moleskine was heartening. While my favorite XL ruled cahiers were still history, I could make do. It put a dent in my despair.

    So you can imagine my absolute joy this morning when I found this little miracle in my email:

    Here I sit, down to my last two or three cahiers, and you slide out of the email ether riding a white horse and slinging out Exactly What I Want. I was this close to breaking up with you, Moleskine, and now you're offering my favorite notebook in two new colors. I feel like dancing.

    You may now consider us reconciled.



    (Start your credit cards, Moleskine lovers, and click on the announcement above to stock up.)
  • ...Interstate 40. And 430. And just about everywhere else for hours while traffic was rerouted around the pig fiasco.

    Update: Interstate Reopens After Pig Truck Accident - todaysthv.com | KTHV | Little Rock, AR

    The Great Bear Writing Project began this morning with several of our faithful stuck in traffic for over an hour while "troopers and others" coaxed close to ninety 800-pound swine off the roadway. Thankfully, our writers all made it in. Sadly, there was no video. There are more pictures, however, if you click on the KTHV link.

    Let me say that hogs on the interstate during rush hour traffic is just one of the things I love about living here in Arkansas. It reminds me that despite our technological acumen and wanna-be status, we're still just good people who every once in a while have to sidestep loose pigs.

    My heart is full.
  • I'm just now cooling off from a whirl-wind workshop week at the South Central Service Cooperative where I've had the pleasure to work with some of the finest teaching women the South knows how to produce. We wrote, shared student stories and lesson plans, fanned the 100-degree heat, and ate like dainty field-hands.

    And the writing...the picture above is the cover of the hastily put-together anthology of the week's mad scribbling. I've always said that teachers writing together is a modern-day version of the old quilting bee. We circle the cloth, rock the needles, offer recipes and advice, and join the stories of our lives with perfect corners and skillful stitching. It's true, and this anthology is the quilt we made together in the Harmony Grove Auditorium. Never mind that our nimble fingers were on laptop computers instead of muslin, at the end of the day we carried the words home. It's the Sisterhood of the Traveling Stories.

    And those pictures on the cover? Stephanie gave a fabulous workshop on writing our school-child pasts. The teachers brought pictures of themselves as children and wrote rich memories from childhoods spent in the South Arkansas pines. In the Fall, they'll share these stories with their students. More importantly, they'll share themselves as writers with the young writers in their classrooms.

    Meet the ladies...

    Special thanks to Sonya Russell, Debbie Fleming, and everyone at the South Central Service Cooperative in Camden, AR for their expertise, attention to the smallest detail, and gracious hospitality.
  • I'm here in Harmony Grove, AR this week with Stephanie giving a week-long series of writing workshops and having the time of my life.

    Everyone set up their own blogs today, so we're frantically blogging and commenting before the lunch break. Technology being what it is - sometimes unfriendly and occasionally misbehaving - we've still managed a room full of teachers freshly publishing online.

    I'm taking pictures and soon there will be a whole host of scribbling and such to show you exactly what it is we've accomplished this week. Stay tuned, y'all.

  • Dear Moleskine,

    I know in the past I've been a little upset, maybe even a little OCD/freaky about your decision to discontinue Extra Large Ruled Cahiers. To add insult to injury this year you introduced two new colors - blood red and navy - in addition to your regular black and cardboard cahiers. Again, without an XL Ruled Cahier in the lineup. I didn't whine, though, until I discovered you'd also discontinued the XL Ruled Soft Cover books.

    Sweet Jesus.

    To tell you the truth, I've been in mourning and unable to gather enough strength even to complain about it here. Instead, I did the next worst thing and gave up, started cruising other sites for "almost" notebooks. I don't mean to disparage all those Rhodia people out there, but that paper is white. Doesn't matter how smooth or fountain-pen friendly it is, it's blinding.

    So imagine my delight today when this appeared in my email.

    It's not a full-blown ruled cahier resurrection, but close enough for me. I can exhale now and scribble like a madwoman in the last twenty pages of my old XL Ruled Soft Cover. There will be more! And I won't have to figure exchange rates to get one of the last five on the planet.

    So thank you, Moleskine. You've saved my brand-loyalty and my sunny disposition.

  • I love our local newspaper. Not that I would consult The Log Cabin Democrat for any national or global news, but that was never this newspaper's purpose. This journalistic wonder was the heartbeat of our community for over a hundred years before Kris Allen, and I hope it weathers another hundred. Maybe only the conglomerated, big-city newspapers will die out. Maybe the small-town rags will outlive us all.

    Why? The Police Beat. There's nothing like it. I'll give you a taste from today's shock and awe. These are numbered in the paper. I have no idea why.
    4. Theft of property at 3900 block of [deleted by me]. A woman called police to say she'd accidentally left her purse at Walmart and someone had stolen it before she could get back to claim it. In the purse were keys, credit cards and a Kel-Tec .380 handgun.
    What? Are other women in the checkout line pushing buggies and packing heat? Apparently so. I'm a complete gun nerd, so I had to look up this particular weapon. The fine people at Kel-Tek advertise this as "...mainly intended for plainclothes police officers as a secondary weapon, or for concealed carry by licensed citizens. The small grip size and light trigger pull make the P-3AT ideal for female shooters." At Wal-Mart. They left that part out.

    That's not the day's favorite from the police blotter, though. This one is.
    6. Assault at 500 block [deleted by me]. A woman answered a knock on her door Friday morning to encounter a heavyset white female wearing a brown hat and scarf and "big dark glasses" spraying her in the face with what seemed to be hairspray and beating her with what is described in the report as "a plastic dump truck." After the attack the assailant fled in "a black, foreign-type passenger car," according to the report.
    This is why the South produces so many good writers. It's not that we're all literarily gifted, it's because the local newspapers sweetly dump these prizes right into our laps like birthday presents. We don't have to make it up. The stuff of fiction happens all around us. There's no such thing as writer's block when there's a good hairspray-and-plastic-dump truck incident to get us over the hump.

    Was it Aquanet? Tonka? Did that unfortunate woman at Wal-Mart lose irreplaceable pictures of her grandbabies along with that Kel-Tek .380? These are questions a writer must answer.

    So keep on plugging away, Log Cabin Democrat. Just to make sure you do, I'm re-upping my subscription. Sure, you're free on the internet, but my loyalty to the Police Beat requires hard cash and a fresh year-long commitment.
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