Brenda Kay Whitecotton Conway

Brenda Kay Whitecotton Conway, 62, of Keota, OK passed away, Saturday, December 31, 2011 in Fort Smith, AR. Brenda was born November 2, 1949 in Bokoshe, OK to Jake & Lawanda Whitecotton. She was preceded in death by her parents; brothers, Thomas Joseph, Rudy Ruffus, Ronnie, Gary Don, Johnny Carl, and Andy Lee; sister, Linda Gay McKeown

Survivors include her husband, Gerald Sr. of the home; son & his wife, Gerald Jr. & Teresa Conway of Bokoshe, OK; daughters & husbands, Angie & Gabe Rosa of Bokoshe, OK; Julie Conway & Thomas Truax of Keota, OK; grandchildren, Cash & Caden Waggoner, Calee Conway, Evan & Shane Rosa, Kaylee Truax; sisters, Mona & Hershel Woodside of Spiro, OK, Mary & Randy Collins of Bokoshe, OK; brothers, Jim Whitecotton, Randy Rue & Mary Whitecotton of Bokoshe, OK, Tim Whitecotton of Lexington, OK, David Whitecotton of Joplin, MO; many nieces & nephews, aunts, uncles, cousins, other relatives & loved ones; many beloved friends.

Services will be 11 am – Friday – January 6, 2012 at the Assembly of God Church in Bokoshe with Rev. Lynn Bullard officiating. Interment will be in Milton Cemetery, Milton, OK. Pallbearers will be her nephews, Aaron Woodside, Travis Whitecotton, Randy Collins Jr., Jon Howell, Tyler Whitecotton & Courtney Whitecotton.

The family will be at the funeral home on Thursday evening from 6-8 pm to visit with relatives & friends.

Travel Tips from Harald Hansen

As we begin the new year, it’s time to starting thinking about 2012 travel plans. We hope the January issue of Viking—our annual travel issue—will inspire you to set out on your own Nordic dream adventure. We've packed the issue with advice from travel experts, including Innovation Norway's Harald Hansen. You’ll find our interview in the January issue, and you can read the extended conversation here:

Viking: What new attractions are drawing tourists to Norway?
Harald Hansen: The traditional attractions and destinations have, of course, been Oslo, Bergen and the fjords—and still remain so. We see also that more and more Americans are visiting further north and south of Bergen to the Stavanger area and to the Ă…lesund region. There’s increasing popularity to visit northern Norway above the Arctic.

V: What's drawing people there?
HH: Arctic experiences—they want to see the Northern Lights and the winter. They want to see the Midnight Sun and do more of a soft-adventure type of vacation. That’s something we see all over Norway actually—hiking, biking, dog sledding, snowmobiling and king crab safaris.

V: Are there any new trends in Norwegian travel? Do you recommend any smart phone apps or websites?
HH: We recommend our website, We are on Facebook and Twitter. And in all the advertising we do, we put up apps where you use your cell phone to get onto our website. More people are using the new apps to get information. Check out our Visit Norway app. We’ve just been doing an advertising campaign with Iceland Air and Scandinavian Air the past year, where we have billboards up on bus stops on subways and trains, where people use their iPhones to enter a competition, or just to access information. So it's becoming more and more important for us to use all the new gadgets that are out there.

V: Do you have any money-saving travel tips to share?
HH: A lot of people think that Norway is very expensive. It is expensive compared to the United States or Canada, but there are ways to work around that. If you go to our website, you can look at the accommodations, and there’s a lot of hotel passes. For example, there's an excellent pass called the Fjord Pass where you can get up to 40 percent off hotel rates. And the same thing with train passes and bus passes. Norway bus express has its own pass, and there are ways of avoiding those high costs. Scandinavian Airlines and Iceland Air are always running specials. It’s important to follow that. Be active and be online to find deals. We put out all of those offers on our website. Oslo, Bergen and Trondheim now have city passes, which gives you free entrance to all attractions and museums, free public transportation within the cities, even reductions on restaurants and sightseeing. That is something you should always look into and either talk to your tour operator or travel agent. Or buy it when you get to Norway. They are sold at tourist information offices, so it's not something you necessarily have to purchase ahead of time.

V: Are the Northern Lights a big draw?
HH: Yes, the Northern Lights are the most popular attraction in the world for travelers now. And Norway is the best place to see it. This year is actually the best cycle in 50 years to see them!

V: What are some of the top sites to see?
HH: The Oslo Opera House opened three years ago and has become the most visited attraction in Norway. You can walk up on the roof. The Opera House is actually built into the fjord, like an iceberg. The roof is made of white marble, so you can walk all over it and there are restaurants there. In addition to housing the National Opera and Ballet, it has also become a place where people meet up and sun bathe up on the roof. In the summer, they have rock concerts and set up stages out on the fjord where people sit on the opera house itself and the performances are on floats out in the fjord. The new Holmenkollen Ski Jump has also become a very popular destination. In February, Oslo will host the world championship in snowboarding, which is a big attraction for Americans. And 2013 is the 150th anniversary for the birth of the painter Edvard Munch, so that's going to be a big deal.

V: Are there things to do with kids when visiting Norway?
HH: Yes! Go to the fjord region for some kayaking, hiking and biking. The Bergen Aquarium is very popular, and there is the new science center called VilVite. Of course the funicular and the cable car overlooking Bergen are cool. They have just opened up a new restaurant up there which is a great experience. In Oslo, there’s the reptile park and the International Museum of Children’s Art. At the Noble Peace Center, you can learn the history of all the winners, and it’s very interactive so kids can use technology to learn about peace efforts. It’s a great center—one of my favorite places to go.

V: Is there a language barrier?
HH: Not a problem whatsoever. Everybody speaks English.

V: Anything you caution against while traveling?
HH: Not really. We are a pretty safe destination. Nobody has to be afraid of anything. But you always have to pay attention and be aware when you travel anywhere. We always say there's no bad weather, there's just bad clothing. When you travel in Norway—especially during the summer—bring a light raincoat, layers and be prepared for everything.

Summing Up: 2011 Arts Interviews (Part 2)

It is a mathematical dictum that the shortest distance between two points is a line. It has also been observed that between any two points is an infinite number of points because each half segment can be cut in half again and again ad infinitum.

Now, what if time were viewed in the same manner. Half of 24 hours is twelve and half again would be six, but if you keep cutting time in half you end up with an infinite moments of time between now and then. As I pondered this, I began to worry that infinity is such a long, long time that tomorrow might never come. Therefore, I am posting Part 2 of this year's list of interviews with artists and other involved in arts related activities. Just in case...

Ten Minutes with
Richard Hansen, Director of the 2nd Annual Duluth International Film Festival

Five Minutes with Artist/Designer Marian Lansky

Ten Minutes with Painter David Sandum

Eight Minutes with Muralist
Samuel Homan

Five Minutes with Artist
GA Gardner

Five Minutes with Artist Amylee of Paris

Ten Minutes with Artist Sandi Harrold from Down Under

Seven Minutes with Fairy and Goddess Artist Liza Lambertini

Ten Minutes with Artist Tonja Sell (Part I)

Ten Minutes with Artist Tonja Sell (Part II)

Five More Minutes with Multi-Media Artist Tonja Sell

Ten Minutes with Singer/Songwriter Caitlin Robertson

Five Minutes with Richard Brandt, Author of One Click

Ten Minutes with Photographer John Heino

Ten Minutes with Steampunk Artist Eric Horn

A Dialogue on Writing with David Beard

And once again, drive safe if you're out on the roads... and have a very meaningful 2012.

Summing Up: 2011 Arts Interviews

I really enjoy interviewing people. Being a writer gives you the often rare opportunity to gently probe beneath the surface to see what makes a person tick. I've been interviewing for more than 25 years so it's no surprise to find that my blog is occasionally peppered with interviews of artists and other creative people.

My initial aim with the artist interviews had been to help other artists discover the varieties of ways their creativity could be expressed. As I reviewed this past year I found that I produced and shared more than thirty interviews and thought it would be useful to assemble them here in one place.
To each of you who participated and contributed, a very earnest thank you.

Five Minutes with Bluewater Illustrator
Todd Tennant

Ten Minutes with Artist
Nancy Eckles

Five Minutes with Painter
Marcia Baldwin

Five Minutes with Duluth Painter
Dale Lucas

Ten Minutes with Artist
Nancy Miller

Five Minutes with
Eris Vafias and Art Kamakaze III

Karin Kraemer
Talks About Pottery

Local Artists Talk About
Painting Live

Ten Minutes with Artist
Laurie Frick

Six Minutes with Artist
Elizabeth Papenfuss

Five Minutes with Award Winning Narrator Grover Gardner

Twelve Minutes with Painter
Olivia Villanueva

Five Minutes with Artist Paul Klee

Ten Minutes with Painter Juan Farias

Ten Minutes with the Young Creative Rob Kaiser-Schatzlein

Come back tomorrow for sixteen more.... and drive safely tonight if you're out on the roads. Happy New Year!

My seed thought for you in 2012: Life is a gift. Don't force it. Embrace it fully and let it happen.

Photo: Jeredt Runions, live painting at the Clyde. By Andrew Perfetti.

The Gunfighter

Before starting this blog four-and-a-half years ago, my mornings began with journal writing. Thirty years' worth. Re-reading pages from these journals is sometimes illuminating, sometimes depressing and sometimes surprising. There are many insights that would have been utterly forgotten had they not been captured in ink. For this reason alone keeping a diary or journal has important therapeutic value for nearly all who practice it.

Not every day of journal writing produces profundity, but for writers the discipline of writing daily helps us in two other important ways. First, as we dredge our hearts, minds, souls and record what we find, we develop the skill of making concrete in words what would otherwise remain misty, vague and nebulous. And second, I believe that writers can use these daily sessions to work on improving their craft. That is, instead of just writing what happened yesterday or what's going on inside or around us, we strive to record it well.

In high school I kept a dream diary for four years. Not every dream was significant or important, but the practice helped improve my ability to magically extract images and details from the scenes that typically played out in the nether world below the surface of consciousness.

Here's are some scenes from a dream that I recorded on April 13, three decades ago.

Scenes from a Dream

I was a gunfighter in the Old West.

In my dream I had ridden into an abandoned town on my horse... went to the town hall or saloon, some building with a stage, and entered. There were three or four women there, armed, weapons set up so as to protect themselves from an assault in a last stand kind of way. I was not who they were expecting and they let me stay. We talked.
It was not clear to me if the people the were expecting were bad guys or good guys, but it’s possible they were anticipating a posse. Their men had been killed or captured and they were in desperate straits.

It turns out I knew one of the women and I learned from her that she was taking care of two infants that were truly annoying to her. This was a woman with whom I had been somewhat romantically involved at an earlier time in my life. I told her to take care of the children “as if they were my own.” In truth, I suspected that they were my own when I learned who the missing mother was.

We talked and waited and finally the posse showed up. When they entered the saloon, they were surprised at my presence. They knew who I was.... a dangerous man and a sure shot. I had two guns in my hands, but no bullets. Possibly a dozen men entered, and we (the women and I) talked them down. No shots were fired. They agreed to leave the women alone.

Hannah Rae Lovett

Hannah Rae Lovett, infant daughter of Joshua Micah and Tessa Dawn (Powell) Lovett passed away Wednesday, December 28, 2011 in McCurtain, OK. Hannah was born November 22, 2011 in Poteau, OK. She was preceded in death by her great grandmothers, Oteka Bryant & Arlene Branson and great grandfather, Bodie Powell.

Survivors include her parents, Josh & Tessa Lovett of the home; brother, Rafe Lovett of the home; 3 sisters, Caitlin, Taylor and Montana Lovett of the home; maternal grandparents, Donnie Powell and Connie Powell of McCurtain, OK; paternal grandparents, Mike and Judy Lovett of Wister, OK; maternal great grandparents, Gracie Powell and R.D. Bryant of McCurtain; paternal great grandparents, Raymond and Mary Cripps of Wister, OK; aunt, Jennifer Boman of Heavener, OK; uncles, Mike Boman of Yanush, OK, Jason Boman of Alaska, Shawn Lovett of Charleston, AR; great aunts and uncles, Jeremy and Sandy Oliver of McCurtain, OK, Randy and Terri Bryant of Bokoshe, OK; other relatives & loved ones; many beloved friends.

Services will be 11 am, Friday, December 30, 2011 at New Life Church, Panama, OK with Rev. Joe Pierce officiating. Interment will follow in Milton Cemetery, Milton, OK. Pallbearers will be Mike Lovett, Donnie Powell, Rafe Lovett. Honorary pallbearers will be R.D. Bryant, Raymond Cripps.

The family will be at the funeral home on Thursday evening from 5-7 pm to visit with relatives & friends.

A Dialogue on Writing with David Beard

David Beard received his Ph.D. in Rhetoric and Scientific & Technical Communication in 2002 from the University of Minnesota, Department of Rhetoric. He has written extensively on this topic of his interest and was editor, with Richard Enos, of the book Advances in the History of Rhetoric: The First Six Years. Late this fall we met for the first time at an art opening in downtown Duluth. He is currently an assistant professor of writing studies at UMD.

Ennyman: Whom would you consider the most significant American writers of the past 100 years? And which authors have been your personal favorites or biggest influences?

David Beard: The most significant writers in the last 100 years in our nation? I don't think anyone has surpassed Fitzgerald as an expression of the flaws of the American dream. I love teaching The Great Gatsby. (We are lucky to have a Gatsby expert at UW Superior, Deborah Schlacks.)

But when I was starting out, I dreamt of being Vonnegut for at least three reasons. First, Slaughterhouse Five is one of the most important books about WWII and life after WWII that is accessible to people ages twelve to eighty. Second, Palm Sunday (his first book of essays) helped me understand the relationship between conscience and literary or rhetorical style. Vonnegut, for me, I'd say is all about conscience expressed on the page. Third, and most important, Vonnegut was a writer by sheer force of effort and sheer force of will; he was an engineer by training, not an English major; he was a soldier, not a poet. But he was a writer.

E: Did I mention to you that I interviewed Vonnegut for an article once? I was a Vonnegut fan when young. Here's the short tribute piece I wrote about Vonnegut shortly after he died.

DB: In the same way that I love Vonnegut, I admire Tim O'Brien. The Things They Carried changed how I teach literature. But I've never fallen for his later work. In that same vein, Art Spiegelman's Maus changed how I teach visual communication.

But the biggest impact on students today? To be a writer, for so many young students, today, is to walk in the shadow of Hunter S. Thompson and William S. Burroughs. I admire them both, but I have mixed feelings about their legacies as "writers to emulate," or examples of the writing life. What do you think, Ed?

E: Regarding Hunter S. Thompson and Burroughs?

I come from the "belles lettres" school of thinking as regards writing. It’s the writing, not the lifestyle that matters most. Hunter Thompson became a pop icon of anti-establishment, but is that the embodiment of what a writer should be? If I recall correctly his first major story on the Kentucky Derby was just a mish mash of notes and not even a prepared manuscript. The editor of Esquire who gave him the assignment was going to print and needed the story but Thompson had done little but party. The editor asked for the scribblings and they were purportedly published as is. (I say purportedly because an Esquire editor famously altered even Raymond Carver’s writings around that time.) Any other editor would have called it rubbish but they celebrated it, printed it and donned Thompson a genius. Proof that the king had no clothes on.

I’d be curious to know how much of the interest in Thompson is due to his writings and how much due to the movies about him. And what does this say about being a role model for young writers?

What I’m saying is that it perpetuates the erroneous notion that to be a great artist (writer, musician, etc) one has to behave insanely himself or herself. Burroughs and Thompson were one-percenters as regards over-the-top lifestyle. I would argue that it’s possible to write well and live a “normal” life…

What’s your take on how the Internet has changed publishing?

DB: The Internet has made it possible for more people to be writers but for fewer of them to be paid for it.

The Internet has made it easier for writers to reach audiences, including marketing their own work, and I think, maybe, as a result, some authors become the product for sale.

Two of my favorite regional authors are Roy C. Booth and Aaron Brown. Both maintain blogs and Facebook pages. So when I buy their latest works, I'm extending my relationship with them as much as I am buying a product. Surely the same might be true of readers of Ennyman's Territory?

E: I certainly hope so. New topic... What do you mean by "the new rhetoric"? In what way is the new rhetoric different from the old rhetoric?

DB: When we talk about the Old Rhetoric, or when we talk about rhetoric in popular terms, we tend to talk about the ways that persuasive figures manipulate people. We think of emperors addressing their people ("Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your ears") or presidential candidates addressing their voters. We think about demagogues misleading the people to enter into power -- whether the power of politics or the power of the market (old school advertising set out to manipulate consumers the way politicians set out to control voters).

When we talk about the New Rhetoric, we're talking about the way that our society has the technologies, the social structures and increasingly the will to turn monologue into dialogue. As a teacher, that's the condition I foster, the skills I teach and the social change I want to enable.

E: Are there any universal truths about writing that you try to personally convey to your writing students?

DB: There are no universal truths for successful writing. Writing is, for me as a writer and in my classes, a local act, constrained by local forces. Each act of writing requires the writer to pull out the barometer to get the air pressure, the thermometer for temperature, the calendar, the compass for bearing, the map with protractors for location, the Farmer's Almanac for info on this date, historically, and the Ouija board for just a tiny peak into the future. Anytime any part of those writing conditions change, the strategies you'll use as a writer will change with them.

We are lucky to live in a place where writing is taught so well by so many: Heather Bastian at Scholastica, Jamie White-Farnham at UWS, John Hatcher, Chris Julin, Rachel Wolford and Craig Stroupe at UMD. The teaching of professional writers is part of the culture and climate of Duluth Higher Ed. And it's part of the climate of the town. I work with the Arrowhead Regional Arts Council, who regularly fund work by established and up & coming writers, and who teach young writers and artists the grant-writing process. And every year, dozens of college students learn from professionals like you, Ed, in internships.

E: Thank you, David, for your thoughts and insights. Let's keep the dialogue going.

David Hines, Transplant Technician, Mayo Clinic Jacksonville, 2011

by: Larry Hannan | Florida Times Union

David Hines loved his job as a transplant technician at the Mayo Clinic.

“I feel I have the best job in the world,” Hines wrote on his Facebook page. “The reason is because of the nature of the job and the direct contact of the people who I work with.”

On Monday, Hines died doing his job when a helicopter he was riding in went down in Clay County. He was flying to Shands at the University of Florida in Gainesville to pick up a heart for transplant.

On Tuesday, the death was still raw for Christa Clark, whose father was Hines’ roommate.

“I was in shock when I heard what happened,” said Clark, who declined to give her father’s name because he was out of town.

Hines, 57, was a genuinely nice person.

“I guess you kind of have to be nice to do that job,” Clark said.

Hines, who has 25 years of military service, was also a former master sergeant in the 125th Fighter Wing of the Florida National Guard. He joined in 2001 as a medical service craftsman and an optometry technician and retired in 2006.

“This tragedy emphasizes the dedication of those who risk their lives in order to give life to others,” said Maj. Gen. Joseph Martin, former state air surgeon for the Florida National Guard, in a written statement. “I was always impressed with David’s skill and dedication, as we worked together both in military and civilian careers.”

Hines was also one of the founding members of the Florida National Guard’s Chemical, Biological, Nuclear Radiological and High Yield Explosive Enhanced Forced Package, which is designed to assist during disasters.

Ron Graves knew Hines when he worked at SK Jets as one of the people who ferried the Mayo staff around on transplant pickups.

SK Jets President E. Hoke Smith was also killed in Monday’s accident.

“I got to know David as a generous, pleasant, friendly and helpful person,” said Graves, who now lives in Canada. “David never spoke ill of anyone and always had a cheerful demeanor.”

The selfless dedication of Hines’ delivering donor organs was extraordinary, Graves said, and he mourns for all the people killed and their families.

Kendra Sims, who worked with the organ procurement organization Lifequest, which offers organs to Mayo on a regular basis, said it was always a relief when Hines showed up.

“It’s like I could breathe a sigh of relief because I knew he would come in with the best attitude and jump right in, especially when he knew I was tired,” Sims said. “He was so proficient at what he did and all the [organ replacement] team and surgeons loved working with him.”

Cheryl Martin, a Mayo organ recovery coordinator, said she worked many times with Hines.

“He was a great teacher and mentor to the field of organ recovery and transplantation,” Martin said. “There are simply not enough wonderful things to say about Dave to be able to fully describe him. He will greatly be missed.”

Video: Mayo Clinic

Luis Bonilla, Transplant Surgeon, Mayo Clinic Jacksonville, FL 2011

Luis Bonilla, killed in a helicopter crash Monday while retrieving a heart to transplant, was praised by patients and coworkers as a compassionate surgeon.

Bonilla, 49, graduated from Our Lady of the Rosary University in Bogota, Colombia, in 1985 and did several residencies and fellowships at Mayo Clinic in Rochester between 1993 and 2011, according to Florida licensing records.

In July, he completed a three-year residency there in thoracic and cardiovascular surgery at Mayo in Rochester. He had recently started working at Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville.

His wife, Tracy Bonilla, made a brief statement to a reporter with the Florida Times-Union from her home in Rochester. The Bonillas have three children.

“What resides in my mind and my heart is that he was just a noble and wonderful man,” Tracy Bonilla said, pausing several times while speaking. “He was a wonderful husband and father.”

Also killed in the helicopter crash were David Hines, an organ procurement technician, and the pilot, E. Hoke Smith.

“We’ve been touched by the outpouring of prayer and sympathy from patients, friends and colleagues who understand the demands and sacrifices made by these dedicated transplant teams,” said Dr. William Rupp, vice president of Mayo Clinic and chief executive officer of Mayo Clinic in Florida. “We hope the community honors their sacrifice by supporting organ donation.”

Ross Carrier said Bonilla performed lung surgery on his mother, Norma, last month, according to the Times-Union.

“Dr. Bonilla was just a prince of man to our family in the short time we knew him,” Carrier said. “He was one of the finest physicians I’ve ever met in a number of ways.”

The tragedy hit Carrier hard.

“There was just a lot of disbelief and sorrow when I heard the news,” he said. “It’s a big loss to this community.”

Janeth Gomez grew up in Colombia with Bonilla and now lives in America.

“He was a great man who was dedicated to his family and his profession,” Gomez said. “It’s hard to imagine he died so young.”

Peter Jennings got to know Bonilla because his wife, Ana, grew up with Bonilla in Colombia.

“I was a heart-attack victim myself,” Jennings said. “And he always gave me good advice.”

Bonilla had to be completely re-certified when he left Colombia and came to the United States, and his willingness to do that showed his dedication to being a doctor, Jennings said.

“He was just a very warm and generous person,” Jennings said. “I can’t believe he’s gone.”

Video: Mayo Clinic

Wordless Wednesday: Beginnings and Endings

Algra B. Tackett

Algra B. Tackett, 89, of Poteau, OK passed away Monday, December 26, 2011 in Poteau. Algra was born June 2, 1922 in Berlin, OK to Doc & Margaret (Clanton) Barfield. She was a homemaker. Algra was a restaurant owner. She was a member at Latham Assembly of God Church; a charter member of the Green Country Jamboree and a member of the Red Hat Society. Algra was preceded in death by her parents, Doc & Margaret (Clanton) Barfield; husband, Arlie H. Tackett; sons, Richard & Stuart Tackett.

Survivors include her daughter, Janet Jordan of Midland, AR; son, Darrell Tackett of Palm Springs, CA; 9 grandchildren, 15 great grandchildren, numerous great great grandchildren; other relatives & loved ones; many beloved friends.

Services will be 2 pm, Friday, December 30, 2011 at Evans Chapel of Memories, Poteau, OK with Rev. James Hill officiating. Interment will follow in Old Bokoshe Cemetery, Bokoshe, OK.

The family will be at the funeral home on Thursday evening from 6-8 pm to visit with relatives & friends.

Amazon Prime Makes Receiving Content Sublime

I'm currently reading #1 bestseller Steve Jobs, an incredible book about the incredible man behind that incredible company. I will be writing more about it in the week ahead, but wanted to note one observation that emerges as one reads this story. So many of the great companies were the result of a visionary leader whose fingerprints are all over the products they produce. Steve Jobs' Apple is no different.

Another observation. In the internet age there have been real winners and losers, and the captains of industry in the digital age are fully aware of what's at stake in many of the battlefields where they duke it out with rivals. The computer's operating system was one of these battlefields, and Bill Gates was Steve Jobs' rival on that front.

In recent years another battlefield has emerged as regards how content would be delivered to our computers and portable devices. Apple's iStore is going head-to-head with Amazon and Barnes & Noble. The result for consumers of electronic media has been fast dropping prices and superfast upgrades to electronic devices that deliver books, music and video.

Many card games, from Bridge to Tripoli, involve a bidding war in order to name trump. Once trump is declared, the cards are played in accordance with this new situation. It's not enough to play your cards right but to have the power to declare whether the money cards will be clubs, diamonds, hearts or spades. Hence the backdrop for many of these digital wars. The visionaries saw the lay of the land (or rather, cyber-territories) long before most consumers even had an inkling of what was at stake.

Amazon's current game changer is Amazon Prime. Here's what Sam Biddle at Gizmodo has written about Amazon Prime.

Game Over: Amazon Prime Is Officially the Greatest Deal in Tech
Amazon's Prime service began as a way to get your books and deodorant shipped to your door faster. Which was nice. Now, it's turned into a cornucopia of digital everything: movies, TV, books.

And as it's grown, it's turned into something else: the smartest digital ticket around.

The four components of Amazon Prime are these.
1) FREE Two-Day Shipping on millions of items
2) No minimum order size
3) Unlimited instant streaming of thousands of movies and TV shows with Prime instant videos
4) A Kindle book to borrow for free each month from the Kindle Owners' Lending Library

O.K. what's the catch? The whole kit-and-kaboodle is yours for a flat fee of $79 a year. And the first month trial is free for anyone who likes the concept but is on the fence.

As a writer I like the concept so much that I'm making two of my own books, Newmanesque and The Breaking Point and Other Stories, available in the Amazon Prime lending library this week. Not that these $1.99 eBooks were expensive to begin with. (Thank you to new buyers and readers! Reviews always welcome.)

Will it be the game-changer Biddle suggests? Who knows? Google's attempts to steal the Facebook community with Google+ hasn't panned out as hoped. But Prime is just one of Jeff Bezos' current moves. Apple and Netflix will counter.

Meantime life goes on all around us. Have a great day.

Why I Try

Why I Try

Do I really want on my deathbed to lie
wondering why I didn't try?

Regretting life I didn't live?

Regretting the strength I didn't give?

Regretting what I didn't share,

wondering why I didn't care?

And so, you see, till the day I die

I'll try and try and try and try.

Robert Junior Lowery

Robert Junior Lowery ,76, o f Pocola, OK born March 15, 1935, of Pocola passed away Friday Dec. 23, 2011, in Fort Smith, Arkansas. Robert was born March 15, 1935 in Pocola, OK to Robert Washington Sr. & Eveline (Barnes) Lowery. He was retired from Whirlpool and Choctaw Casino. Robert was preceded in death by his parents Robert Washington Lowery and Eveline “Liza” Lowery. One son Robert Allen Lowery.

Survivors include his wife of 56 years Edna Mae Lowery; two daughters and sons-in-law, Retha and Tom Anderson and Karen and Randy Lairamore; two sons, Shawn Lowery and wife Esther, and Shane Lowery; six grandchildren, Brent, Gerald, Nazhoni, Ayiana, and Ethan all of Pocola, and Kaitlyn of Arkoma. Also, three sisters, Maelene Goins and husband Ronald of Branson, Missouri; Linda Rogers of Yakima, Washington; and Leta Farmer of Pocola; one brother, Rayford Lowery and wife Phyllis of Pocola. Numerous nieces, nephews, relatives and friends, & loved ones.
Services will be 2pm Tuesday December 27, 2011 at Evans Chapel in Pocola, OK with Rev. Danny Kennedy officiating. Interment will follow at the Macedonia Cemetery in Pocola, OK.

Pallbearers will be: Jack Lokey, Rex Lokey, Randy Tackett, Bill McKeown, Brian Polk, and Bubba Treat. There will be a visitation on Monday 26, 2011 from 5-7pm at the funeral home.

It's a Wonderful Life

"You've been given a great gift, George: A chance to see what the world would be like without you. " ~Clarence

The celebration of Christmas has resulted in a whole host of traditions that families pass down from one generation to the next. Decorating the Christmas tree, singing carols, reading the Christmas story and exchanging gifts are just a few of the common traditions that extend back many long years through the generations.

In more recent years, because movies and television have more or less emerged during the Boomer generation, a new set of traditions has been added. For some families it's the watching of Charlie Brown's Christmas, created by Charles Schultz near 60 years ago for television. In our family it has been the shared watching of A Christmas Carol, the George C. Scott version.

Before we finally got the DVD we used to watch a VHS version that we taped from television in the late 1980s. Watching this story for ten, fifteen and twenty years has not only brought a continuity to our traditions, but a lot of laughs as we try to say some of the lines just before they're said on the film. "Cratchitt!"... and "Another sound from you... and you'll keep your Christmas by losing your situation."

After the visit by deceased friend and partner Bob Marley, the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future all visit the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge on Christmas eve and teach him that there are other ways of looking at the world besides the way he sees things. The lessons are many and valuable, and the story richly entertaining and heart-warming to boot.

There's another film that many families share as a tradition. Like A Christmas Carol it's the story of a man who has been seeing things wrong, but instead of ghosts helping him get perspective on his life, it's a quirky guardian angel named Clarence, striving to earn his wings.

This film, too, has so many memorable moments and lines. The scene where Jimmy Stewart is inwardly despondent over the lost money and lashes out at his children is heartbreaking in the extreme. The screenwriting, directing by Frank Capra and the acting are all five star. In honor of the 65th anniversary of this film, the Los Angeles City Council declared this past Friday "It's a Wonderful Life Day."

One theme common to both these films is the deep insight that our lives are interconnected to others in ways we often don't see because we're caught up in our selves. If we're fortunate, we can begin to grasp the truths contained here without a visitation by ghosts or George Bailey's suicidal despair.

Whatever your traditions as regards Christmas, my prayer is that you will be richly rewarded with new self-understanding this season as regards your role in the bigger scheme of things. For some reason I keep wanting to say thank you.

"You see George, you've really had a wonderful life. Don't you see what a mistake it would be to just throw it away?"

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

It's an Awesome Thing

It's that time of year when creches and Nativity scenes show up all around. Probably a lot of commerce generated by all this Christmas gear. If you're like me, you may have had the thought cross your mind at the extravagant lengths to which some people go to dress up their yards with lights and re-enactments of that moment in time long ago. From now on, instead of saying, "Who has time to do all that?" ... here's an alternative thought. This really happened.

Merry Christmas to all, and the very best to you in 2012.

Caitlin Robertson’s Coyote Blues

In November I interviewed Minnesota singer/songwriter Caitlin Robertson who is currently trying to raise money for a second CD of her folk-rock-country-pop songs, Wintersong. In December her threesome, Caitlin Robertson and the Dusty Roads, opened for another Twin Cities group at The Rex (the old Fitgers Tap Room) and I was able to purchase a copy of her first CD titled Coyote Blues, which I have been listening and re-listening to. And I like it.

There are a whole slew approaches to making music. For some groups the song is simply an excuse for break-out jams in between verses. For other groups, it’s all about the message, the story, the words. Robertson weaves both music and words into a lyric whole.

My first impression of the album is its clean sound and high production values. The songs involve a range of musicians in various combinations from acoustic guitars, keyboards and percussions to fiddle, mandolin, upright bass, electric bass, steel and slide guitars and vocal harmonies.

My next observation is that Robertson’s songs demonstrate a serious effort to craft original images and touch universal themes in new ways. I was very pleased to find that the CD includes an eight-page booklet with acknowledgements to the other artists involved with her project as well as all the lyrics to her poetic songs.

The opening track, Red Barn So Lonely, begins this way:

Red barn so lonely
Rooftop white with snow
Doors hang open
Swallow breath-stealing cold…

I hear William Blake in this simple description which easily becomes a metaphor for so much more. The song continues with lines like “frozen quilts of stars” and “ice covered wings” as the narrator struggles to regain hope, to re-connect with lost dreams.

Robertson’s lilting, lyric voice has a childlike innocence as it soars through airy high spaces. She's easy to listen to. But she’s not the innocent you expect as you learn she’s past her thirtieth year and has had enough life experience to know it has painful as well as rewarding contours.

I’d be interested in learning who she’s singing to when she sings Meet Me In Port Townsend, the second track. The Photographer is another song that tells a story in song, followed by Feeding the Vultures, Sally Ireland and the Ice Cream Song (Meltin’ Fast).

Coyote Blues, from which the album takes its name, is a story about two cowgirls who meet a coyote while walking into town one afternoon. It’s an intriguing song with an interesting twist, including a coyote howl that will take you places.

Two of my favorite songs on the album are Bar Napkin and Losing You. Bar Napkin begins…

Bar Napkin, bar napkin
Won’t you dry my tears
Won’t you record my poems
Take away the years

It’s been a long time
Since I felt young
Oh what a mess
This life has brung….

The song brought back a memory from my own youth when I felt old and had seen so much, felt I had been through so much. In the song the narrator recounts a decade of her life from young barmaid to present, weary and looking for a fresh bar napkin to start on again.

I find it interesting when songwriters mention their actual ages. Paul Simon once wrote, "I was 21 years when I wrote this song; I'm 22 now and I won't be for long... and the leaves that are green turn to brown."

The song also brought back memories of my year in Mexico where tortillas, like bar napkins, serve a variety of purposes, from hot pad, to soup spoon, to even being a napkin. I never saw anyone write on poem on a tortilla, but it’s a sure thing this south o’ the border food staple has been the subject of more than a few poems.

Losing You corrals a painfulness that could put moisture in the corners of your eyes, a song of loss and heartbreak. It’s not the belt ‘em out blues of Janis Joplin. It’s more Melanie and Linda Ronstadt, a high clarion call perhaps not unlike the Sirens that tormented Ulysses. (O.K., I’m probably over-reaching there.)

Read the interview here to learn more about Caitlin Robertson and her current project. Be sure to enjoy the video. You won’t receive her CD by Christmas any more, but if you get a little Christmas money from grandma, it might be something to add to your collection.

click images to enlarge

eReader Wars

Woke this morning dreaming about digital eReaders. In my dream a company called Digital Mayflower had been the pioneer in eReaders, which is funny because when I woke and looked it up online, there really is a company called Digital Mayflower, though in a different technology category. The trigger for this dream was an Editor’s Pick article that I read yesterday in Wired magazine about eReaders.

About Wired Magazine
In 1994 I took a one day class about the Internet at U of M, Duluth in part because I wanted to be ready for the coming technology revolution. There were many highlights that day, chief of which was searching through libraries in Berlin and Pisa via Archie, doing Veronica searches. When I got home, abstracts for several articles were magically downloaded onto my 20 meg Mac… Right then I knew something powerful was happening.

The second highlight was less profound, but quite practical. The instructor said there’s a new magazine all of us should be reading, and he showed us his copy of Wired. I went out and bought a copy and have been reading it ever since.

Back to the Story
So yesterday I was paging through the January issue which I came in the mail earlier this past week. In the midst of a hundred other topics was this Editor's Pick article by Tim Carmody. In Carmody's estimation, the surprise winner is... the Kobo Touch.

Huh? Never even heard of it. But I'm sure they will make hay with the endorsement, because Wired magazine is no longer a fledgling start-up. It is a million reader powerhouse whose recommendations and endorsements have real clout.

For the record, you really don't need an eReader to read eBooks. Browsers like Chrome can download books from the store or the Barnes and Noble eUniverse. But as Carmody points out, "When it comes to book-length reading, no glowing LCD tablet screen can hold a backlight to the eye-saving e-ink of these readers."

Other eReaders compared and featured included the Nook Simple Touch, the Sony Reader PRS-T1 and the Kindle from Amazon. And why it matters which eReader you choose? Well, the Kindle and Nook each have special relationships with the "mother ship" and the more Kindles there are, the more Amazon sales will soar. Ditto for B&N for buyers of Nooks.

Despite Wired's influence, Kindles have been selling at the brisk rate of a million per day as we head into Christmas, undoubtedly due to the low price point of less than a hundred dollars per unit. Nook countered by lowering the price on its own eReader.

To best understand the eReader wars, picture the theater industry. Hollywood made the movies, but there was a time when no one could view them without the theaters. The distribution network gave the film industry its power. Likewise modern ePublishing. B&N and Amazon maintain the inventories, but the distribution systems determine which resource people will use to buy their eBooks from.

For this reason questions were raised in various blogs regarding the article's selection of the Kobo. Why? Because something is at stake. And here's the first article I found in response: Paul Biba's short and too the point Wired’s Tim Carmody stacking the deck against Amazon ereaders? Slanted review warning! It's a really concise criticism that you'll really want to read if you're still undecided between a Nook, Kindle, Sony and now Kobo.

The heart of Biba's beef is summed up in a paragraph that appears after listing the four eReaders reviewed by Carmody.

What’s going on here? Carmody is taking a completely different category non-touch Kindle and comparing it to three higher-end touch ereaders. In addition, one of the “Cons” he lists of the low end Kindle is that it has ads. This same version of the Kindle is available without ads, but he chose not to mention this and then decides to use the ad version and list it as a con.

Biba's barb ends, "Shame on you, Wired."

On the very same day Carmody posted a few comments of his own at another site.

The January issue of Wired has my first article/review in the print magazine, a roundup of new e-readers. We didn't get to include the new Kindle Touch or the Kindle Fire, because they weren't released until a month ago (magazines take a long time to make!). But I was still surprised at how much I liked the Kobo Touch and how disappointed I was with the $79 entry-level E Ink Kindle.

Kobo put up scans of two pages of the review. (I don't even have my print copy yet! The world is crazy.) Still, very happy to be in my first issue of the magazine — and I'm already writing something for my next issue now.

Personally, I don't care one way or the other what eReader you choose. I already have my Kindle and love its ease of use. What matters more to me is that people continue to enjoy reading. The high volume of eBooks being sold seems to indicate that there are still a lot of folks with this passion.

Books are a labor of love for those who write them, and authors find no small measure of satisfaction in connecting with readers who appreciate their work, in whatever form it is encountered. As an author myself, I am not very particular whether you buy my novel The Red Scorpion at or B&N. What matters to me is that you enjoy the ride.

Here's the page to visit for a brief introduction to my four current books. And if you get an eReader for Christmas, start anywhere.

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Bob Dylan

I found this last night online. Kinda fun story of a guy who did the best he could to hold Dylan at arm's length, but after a long, long time finally got it. I like the title of the essay because of its deliberate take-off on the sub-title of Kubrick's classic, Dr. Strangelove.

The Mike Walsh story begins this-away....

Let me make this clear up front: I'm not a Dylan-head, Dylan-ite, Dylan-phile, Dylan-ologist, or any other kind of extreme Dylan fan. In fact, I never bought a Dylan record or CD until just a few years ago. I never saw the need. Growing up in the 60's, Dylan was on the radio all the time --"Blowing in the Wind," "Don't Think Twice It's All Right," "The Times They Are a Changin'," "All I Really Want to Do," "It Ain't Me Babe, "Mr. Tambourine Man," etc., etc. Plus, many other bands had hits with his songs, like Peter Paul and Mary, Hendrix, and The Byrds. There was no escaping Dylan back then. You listened to him whether you wanted to or not.

In college, it seemed like everybody in the dorm except me owned Dylan's Greatest Hits, Volumes 1 and 2. So I had to listen to the same songs all over again at just about every dorm party. One kid down the hall even had a guitar, a neck stand with a harmonica, and a music book of Dylan's greatest hits. So I got to hear the same songs played and sung live -- quite amateurishly, to put it kindly. By the mid-70's I'd had quite enough of Dylan -- so much so that I did a nasally, slurred vocal rendition of "Like a Rolling Stone" just to torture the Zimmermanites, even though they never seemed to mind. In fact, they joined in no matter how obnoxiously I wheezed, "How does it feeeeeeeel?", so the joke was always on me.

What I wanted to hear was something different, something that wasn't on the radio. Soon punk and new wave surfaced, and I've been a slave to indie rock and the underground sounds ever since, as my record collection can attest. My opinion of Dylan stayed the same during all that time, even though I didn't sing "Like a Rolling Stone" quite so often (although I did work up an even more annoying version of "The Needle and the Damage Done" but that's another story).

The rest of the article can be found here at the Phawker blog where you'll read that it took many a year for this fellow to come around. For seem reason I was much more prepared for his outside-the-pop-40-box sound a bit earlier than that. When Ed H. loaned me The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan on the school bus, I recognized something stirring there. A few years later, when Ed shared about the beauty of eating flower petals on a subway in Greenwich Village with his girl friend, I wasn't so sure about that part of the new scene.

Last night I remembered his story about the flower petals because Susie bought some edible flowers to brighten the darkness of our Winter Solstice. She thus decorated my stew with a pansy. Which I ate, incidentally. It made me smile as I thought of Ed H. on the subway... Funny how Subway became a franchise, and yesterday noon I ate a sandwich there.

An intersection of connections... Eds and subways and eating flowers and Dylan. As I write these lines I drift through Girl From The North Country, and Boots of Spanish Leather... and Bob Dylan's Dream.... and I dream a little, too.

Hope you're still holding some dreams in the hearth of your hearts. Keep 'em goin'....

Picture top right by Ennyman, painted on a page from the 1939 London Times

Eighth Annual Christmas Concert from Norway Broadcast in the U.S.

I love this time of year for so many reasons. Everyone is in a cheerful mood, despite the weather turning colder and the days darker, the world is adorned in colorful decorations that are straight out of a child's dream, and I get to share in the holiday cheer with my family and loved ones .

What I love most about this time of year, though, is the music. Ever since I was a child I've loved Christmas music, especially the traditional music of carols. Songs like Little Drummer Boy, O Holy Night, The First Noel, etc. always bring warm and welcome memories from the past.

That's why it's so exciting to announce the 2011 Christmas Concert from Norway! For the eighth year in a row the Vang church in Hamar, Norway is the home of a beautiful musical broadcast that brings together world-renowned singers and musicians to perform a concert of traditional holiday and classical music! This year, thanks to PBS and Public Broadcasting channels across America, millions of Americans will be taken into the historic church for this glorious musical event.

Viewers will be treated to an American Christmas music medley, works by Handel, Vivaldi, Morricone, Piazzolla and a number of traditional Norwegian songs. In addition, Princess Martha Louise, will host this year's concert and share Christmas memories from her childhood.

The concert is being broadcast in a number of cities throughout the U.S., like New York, Minneapolis, Miami, San Diego and more! I've included a broadcast schedule below, but if you don't see your city listed then make sure to check with your PBS station to see if they will be broadcasting the event. 

New York WLIW 21       
Sun. Dec. 25  10:00 AM

Los Angeles KCET  28         
Sat. Dec. 24    2:00 PM
Chicago WTTW 11         
Sat. Dec. 24   9:30 PM
San Francisco KRCB 22          
Tues. Dec. 20    9:00 PM

Washington WETA 26         
Sun. Dec. 25    2:00 PM
Phoenix KAET  8           
Fri. Dec. 23   11:00 PM                                              

Tampa WUSF 16         
Sat. Dec. 24    4:00 PM
Minneapolis KTCA 2            
Sat. Dec. 24    8:00 PM
Miami WLRN 17        
 Sat. Dec, 24    8:00 PM
Cleveland WEAO 49         
Sat. Dec. 24    8:00 PM

Orlando WDSC 15         
Fri. Dec. 23     8:00 PM
Raleigh Durham UNCMX           
Sat. Dec. 17    9:00 PM

San Diego KPBS  11         
Thurs. Dec. 22    11:00 PM

Wordless Wednesday, December 21