The first fruits

I bought a lemon tree for my front yard. We had no fruits trees before that.

But today, the first lemon was ripe. It has been in the tree, ripening slowly, the whole time. And today, I plucked it.

It is juicy and sour.

I am pleased. I love my home.

Good News! The spamments have stopped

My brother upgraded the MT software, and now the spam is filtered. It’s a beautiful thing.

I have not spent much time on the blog this week, though, either for deleting comments or writing. I got sick again.


I am hoping tha this particular strain of cold is nasty, and that it is the power of the bug rather than the weakness of my immune system. I don’t usually get sick this often.

Book Review: Walkin’ the Dog by Walter Mosley

My home is in Claremont. I picked it carefully, because I wanted a “good” neighborhood. You all know what that means, right?

I wasn’t so sure that I knew what that meant. It is my habit to question everything, and I think that the idea of a “good” neighborhood is potentially prejudiced. So, I wanted hard data to make the determination. What makes a neighborhood good or bad, really? It’s a complicated question, but I chose to look at crime.

I went to this site to take a look at crime statistics, and just to keep it simple, I focused on murder. What I found shocked me.

How many murders does it take to be a crime wave? How much does it take to get press?

In 2003, Compton had 43 murders, Inglewood had 32 and Long Beach had 49. That is a lot of murders. But not, apparently, enough to worry about. It did not raise the alarm, not for those cities. These areas are acknowledged black neighborhoods. Known ‘hoods. And murder has come to be accepted there.

But accepted by whom, exactly?

My town, Claremont, had 0 murders. It is part of its appeal, to be quite honest. I prefer to live in a place with a low chance of being murdered.

But we share a border with a known brown town, Pomona, which has a high Latino population. Pomona had 17 murders in 2003. In 2002, there were 18 and 2001 had 19.

Claremont stayed steady at zero.

What’s up with that? A line, a two dimensional line of no thickness at all separates these two places. One side, someone murders someone else every three weeks. The other, people don’t kill each other.

People say, “Just avoid Pomona. It’s not a good neighborhood.”

But people are dying over there. Is that what we are supposed to do for our neighbors? Just avoid them when they are in trouble?

Pomona kills people. But Claremont doesn’t. What does Claremont know that Pomona doesn’t?

I almost feel like there should be an exchange program. Maybe some people from Claremont should go over and have a cultural exchange with Pomona, so the Pomona residents could learn to use alternatives to murder to solve their life situations.

People say to me: “Oh, Pomona is suffering under discrimination and poverty.”

But being poor doesn’t make you kill. And discrimination doesn’t either. It’s a separate leap, to murder. What inspires that leap?

This is a sticking point in my relationship with my neighbor, Pomona. How do I relate to this city that allows murders at such a high rate?

To my jaw-dropping amazement, I read a book about this very problem. Not exactly my same viewpoint, but a new angle on the same problem.

Walkin’ the Dog by the incomparable Walter Mosley tells about a murderer. A man out of prison for nearly a decade, walking the free streets of South Central and trying to figure out his life. What does he do with himself and his rage and his unexpectedly returned independence?

He struggles. He thinks, and he works and he talks. He struggles against the gravity-like forces that pull him back to crime and prison. They are the things he knows, after all.

But he wrestles the demons and finds a flicker of epiphany. This book, like many great books, cannot be adequately reduced to plot summary. The story is an amazing journey of bleak honesty and real hope.

I have no doubt that the problems in Pomona and Inglewood and Long Beach are partly the responsibility of the police and the legal system. I also believe that the people in those cities have decided to allow a heightened amount of crime. They share the blame.

And I have a share of the blame too. I participate in the blind eye, in the lack of outrage and grief. I don’t know what I can do. But I know that I have to keep looking for a way to work on making it right. There may be an epiphany waiting for me, and that’s worth looking for.

Ah, look at all the nice people!

Thank you all, for your nice comments. I will not do away with comments, despite the nasty spammenters…

I have several posts I want to write:

* a bit about Proust, who is substantially difficult to read, but has devoted fans (I read one of his books for my book Group)

* this cool piece about classism and the habit of murder (and a book that actually validates my theory!)

* a review of “A burning house” which is stories about people living and dying with AIDS

* this COOL COOL new organization method by Kepner Tregoe that rocks

But I have too much to say and not enough time. I discovered that one of my major problems right now is that I have not been getting enough sleep

No sleep makes it hard to think. And thinking makes it hard to sleep. The last few nights have been full of half waking thoughts. Which is a problem.

maybe if I stop and write out some of the things that I want to post about I will sleep better.

last night I went home and fell asleep right after dinner. At about 6:45 I feel asleep in front of the TV playing “An American in Paris” and then Chris woke me up to send me to bed.

I feel a little rested. But more sleep is needed.

I’ll keep you informed. Thank you all very much for your attention.

another thing…

It is wonderful when I get a comment from a reader. They are not frequent, but they are incredibly welcome. Thank you for your contributions, my readers.

However, in spite of my huge delight when I get a relevant comment, i am really thinking about turning off the comment function on this site.

I get thousands of spam comments every week. This means that I am on my site doing maintenance every day, but I am not always able to add new content because my time is used up in sorting through horrible spam.

Lately, the spam has been mostly medical and gambling sites. Previously it has been porn. So I guess the tone is improving, but the quantity is increasing as well.

I just don’t know what to do about this. There are probably solutions out there…I just love the few comments I do recive so much, it has been worth sorting the spam for it…

there is a lot of spam out there, people.


the blog is languishing.

I’m sorry. I have a lot on my mind. So much, really, that I have about a half dozen really long and very interesting and intelligent blog posts that I would like to do.

But I am a little depressed about the lack of interest on my blog. I should not say that, because those of you who DO read it might take it personally. I thank you all, dear readers, for your faithful interest.

But…well…I guess being smart and erudite wears thin. Or maybe I’m not as erudite as I wish I were. SIGH.

I met someone, and she is funny and interesting. She also has a blog:
Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong Ever

her blog is amusing, mostly about her personal life, little funny stories. Exactly the sort of thing that I usually DON”T write about, because I want to be a little more universally appealing.

Well, she has a larger audience for her blog than i do. Hmph.

Maybe she just has a larger circle of aquaintances than i do.

…this does not make it better…

So, this is a whiny post about how nobody pays attention to me.

I am very tempted to delete it, because i should not have something so self-serving and unflattering posted.

However, I am not sure I will have time to write something better in the near future.


Sniff…our little Internet is growing up

Other people started the Internet. The military started off with DARPA. Just like General Eisenhower had to use the threat of military action on our own soil to push through funding for the interstate highway system, it was the threat of nuclear disaster that let the government come up with an inter-network of communication technology.

Well, we aren’t even close to tapping all the possibilities DARPA started, now become the world wide web, that trinity of double-yoos. It’s my internet. I’ll share it with the rest of you, but it is mine like the air I breathe.

Grizzled military contractors in their 60s will scoff at me, but I was an early adopter of the DARPA enterprise. My college had a system that connected up with it, and I latched on like a leech to that possibility of communicating with interesting people. I spent hours and hours chatting via green glowing text with all the other people who lived by the light of the computer lab monitors. It was 1990 and no one had heard of e-mail.

Back in the college days, I learned nothing about computers. I mean, nothing. I knew to hit the enter key when I was done, but not much more than that. I did ask for help to understand, I did. But I can’t help it if the nerd boys in the lab dissolved into blushing confusion when I asked them to explain. They just found it easier to do it for me. Speaking face to face with a freshman coed was too much.

I repented at my leisure for not asking more questions.

But look at us now! In a satisfyingly ironic twist, I now work as a video conferencing professional. I have progressed to a pretty darn sophisticated method of e-communication.

And email and the Internet are huge and getting bigger every day. I have been able to take my English major writing ambitions and get my stuff out there. I have my own blog, and I even have been a major contributor to starting up this cool website, Blogcritics.

I heard about BC, and it fit exactly what I wanted at the time. It was a place that was designed to get more of an audience than my own little webpage. Okay, so I really didn’t see how it could actually make a profit, but I was living in Silicon Valley at the time and had seen about 10 bazillion start up companies with worse ideas. Funding wasn’t my problem. BC was a place where I could be published and be read by more than just my mother. And I was thankful to Eric Olsen and Philip Winn for giving me that chance.

I practiced the art of writing, doing tons of reviews of whatever came across my path. I got pretty competitive with other writers, wanting to stay in the top ten frequent posters. It was fun! I admit I tossed off some posts that were fairly content-free at times. But then, I also composed some really great bits on Blogcritics.

Lo and behold. I got to be a significantly better writer, through the process of exercising that writing muscle. I wrote and wrote and finally began to work on some projects that were bigger than a website could hold.

I outgrew my blog. I was struggling out of the chrysalis and discovered that I didn’t have a home there anymore.

Which is not to say I don’t still enjoy tossing off the occasional posts on my blog. And whenever appropriate I cross-post to BC. But, as a writer, I’m in a different space. Doing reviews of things doesn’t interest me as much. I have my own things to say.

Okay, so, while I benched myself, the game goes on. BC has become a force, winning awards and attracting new contributors and becoming positively successful and viable. Way to go!

Now I am in the terrifying position of having completed—or nearly completed, there is still the last editing—a longer book-project. In giving myself a shake to look around at how to position my book in the market, I remembered my old stomping ground. Blogcritics would be a site to be seen on, so I could get some publicity as an author and sell some books.

So, I started posting a few things, and tossed off a review that I didn’t put that much effort into. I knew it was short, but it was the sort of thing I would have thrown up in my old competitive-to-be-a-top poster days.

I was shocked to get this reply from Connie Phillips:
“I wanted to drop you an email to let you know I have put a hold on the article you have in pending…You have a really intetersting seedling started here, and I’d love to see you expand on your thoughts just a bit. Give a little bit more information about the CD itself, or…”
Seedling indeed! Who did this person think she was? I stewed around about it. Hmph! What was wrong with my post? What were other people posting anyway?

I went back to the site and did some reading on the music section. I saw post after post of lengthy reviews, full of interesting info and opinions about the album and artists.

Wow. Blogcritics sure has come a long way.

Connie had the annoying quality of being right. I knew I had done a half-assed review, but I arrogantly thought that half-assed was good enough for the Internet.

Not so, my friends. We complain all the time about the sucky state of old guard journalism, and the dividing lines being blurred. The stuffy suits in the Times and News towers say that they have the right to be right, that they are more professional and accuse us bloggers of poor spelling and merely opinionating.

Well, I’m no Instapundit, but I have the right to be right as much as anybody.

However, the bar has been raised and we who have the soapbox have the responsibility. Here on the World Wide Web, we have the generational turnover of fruit flies. Been on the web two years? You’re the elder statesman! No more screwing around. “Good enough” isn’t good enough anymore.

The “child” I helped in my small way to bring into the world grew up to tell me to get with the times. Now that I’m over the shock, I’m really proud.

Fact is, I will probably never be as frequent a poster as I was in the early years, but I will never again take this forum lightly. With my right hand raised, I swear I will always and forevermore spell-check.

CD Review: Madonna _Madonna_

In ’82 Madonna put out– her debut album. Her hair was short and spikey and blonde, with roots as dark as her eyeliner.

Think about this for a minute. Everyone all over the world had a pounding disco hangover by 82. Madonna was brand-new to the music scene and managed to make a dance album that could still make everyone happy instead of sick.

She took some great soul elements, some really excellent keyboard and drum talents to make this album. It’s one that deserves a new look. Sure, “Holiday” and “Lucky Star” got over-played, but if you haven’t really listened to this album in a while, you’ll be really surprised at the talent Madonna had coming straight out of the gate.