Publications
San Diego For Sale Print E-mail
San Diego Reader

20150401(San Diego Reader April 1, 2015)

Dr. Ken Anderson, the affable owner of Pacific Beach’s Anderson Medical Clinic, has his hands sagely folded, fingers interlaced, on his desk. He’s remembering the date, September 26, 2010. That day, the temperature over 100 degrees in Del Cerro, the humidity an untypical 78, he and his wife were playing another couple at the Lake Murray Tennis Club. The two pair were the only players at the club. In the middle of the third set, Anderson tells me, he went down: “I wasn’t breathing and I wasn’t moving.” His heart had stopped. Neither his wife nor their friends had any medical training, though his friend’s wife did notice an automated external defibrillator (AED) near the front desk. She ran for the device, put it beside Anderson’s motionless body, and unzipped the canvas top. The machine started speaking. It told them to apply the panels to his chest. Then, in robot voice, “Shock advised. Stand clear. Press the orange button. Shock delivered. Start CPR.” As a doctor, Anderson reminds me, he knows how perilous the moment was. “Had the AED not been there I would not have made it.” For cardiac arrest, which was his diagnosis, the heart needs to get back to its normal rhythm in five minutes—before the brain loses oxygen.

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Dick Cheney and the Worship of Torture Print E-mail
Essays and Memoirs

16577178-mmmain(Counterpunch February 10, 2015)

“I knew what I was doing,” Harry Truman said after the atomic bombs he ordered dropped not once but twice on Japanese cities—140,000 people dead in Hiroshima that night; 80,000 three days later in Nagasaki; many thousands more, slowly of radiation sickness. “I have no regrets,” Truman boasted. “Under the same circumstances, I would do it again.”

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Having None of It: Parenting Without Religion Print E-mail
Articles

Descent of the Modernists E. J. Pace Christian Cartoons 1922(Written February 2015)

The book the mother is showing me is Tomie dePaola’s Book of Bible Stories. It’s an illustrated first Bible, ages 4 to 8, which, according to the back cover, the author “lovingly brings to life.” She starts paging and stops, her nearly three-year-old son beside her, pounding Play-Doh. “OK, God creates the world, but then”—flipping pages and quoting text—“‘Adam and Eve disobey God,’ and ‘Cain kills Abel,’ and ‘God unleashes a flood’ and kills everyone but Noah and the family. Huh?” She pauses, huffs, and glances at her apartment’s mess—toy-strewn like Christmas morning. “I’m not going to read this to Justin. He’ll be terrorized.”

Thus begins, in this thirty-two-year-old Mom, as it does in millions of other secular parents, the once unorthodox, rhetorical questions. Why should my child know about a God who sanctions such continual violence? Why expose anyone to a religion I don’t believe in? Such queries are being asked and answered by millions of millennials—Pew Research, as of May 2015, shows 35 percent are Nones—who refuse to indoctrinate their children into any faith.

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Print (Almost) Anything Print E-mail
San Diego Reader

projectegg 4s(San Diego Reader January 28, 2015)

Because I’m a writer, I have always thought that among humankind’s most lofty inventions is the printer—the machine, not the person. Be it text or image, how would we know anything about the community we call home without copies of weekly magazines that feature glossy ads for breast enlargement and trend-chasing cover stories? For centuries, print technology has copied text and image onto paper, stone, wood, plastic, or any surface that will receive it. Of course, the copy is flat, sitting on, not rising up from, the surface. But what if we wanted to print something in three dimensions?

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This Shining Night Print E-mail
Essays and Memoirs

2012 0708 images 15 agee(Solstice Literary Magazine December 21, 2014)

We Are Talking Now of James Agee’s “Knoxville: Summer 1915”

In January 1971, I was living in Columbia, Missouri, where for two years I’d been an undergraduate English major at the University.(1) A surprise to literate me, I’d become pencil-sucking bored with my classes, especially the non-electives “Restoration Drama” and “Chaucer.” What’s more I’d also been struggling to write interior-laden short stories based on literary models that once excited me but now raveled through my head like cotton off a spinning jenny until I felt wire-whisked by their polish and mystery and woe—so, one day, just after my sixth semester began, I quit.(2) Because I had to, I got a job, part-time clerk at the University library. They said I could come in from one to five, work half days. Perfect. My mornings were free for writing.

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The Music Is Always There: Reflections on New Orleans Jazz Print E-mail
Essays and Memoirs

cid 149db1300543fa90cda(Guernica November 24/25 2014)

A Deviant Nature /

That which we call American music, whether it’s pop, show tunes, Motown, country ’n’ western, or any other mixed breed, is seldom wholly original. It is—it must be, to appeal widely—a sound and a style already known to its composer-musicians, and their audiences, before it’s written. The declamatory songs of Bob Dylan in the early 1960s, for example, owe everything to the then-familiar swagger of Woody Guthrie, talking blues, pentatonic Shaker hymns, and backwoods white gospel. These elements the troubadour kept as a foundation even as he evolved and wrote new material based on a lyric élan all his own. Pre-Dylan, Guthrie’s music binds Appalachian hillbilly tunes to topical story songs, which, themselves, owe their fluency to the broad-siders and the balladeers of eighteenth century Scotland and England. And so it goes, way on back. But there is, as always, an exception to the rule. Cultural critic Stanley Crouch argues that African-American gospel, blues, and jazz—styles that standardized the flatted third and seventh, syncopation and polyrhythms, and the chaotic, improvising soloist—are unique in music. In song, Crouch says, there had never been, with African or American music, such tap-rooted anguish as can be found in “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child,” where the melodic genius lies not on but between the notes.

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Befouled: San Diego's Most Polluted Sites Print E-mail
San Diego Reader

20141119(San Diego Reader November 19, 2014)

Beach Trash

Beginning our tour of San Diego’s most befouled spots (air, land, water, sea), we stop first for three summer holidays—Memorial Day, July Fourth, Labor Day—when local beaches turn from sun havens into trash dumps. When party-hardy masses overrun Mission Beach, west of Belmont Park, they leave behind swaths of crap. There, at dawn, Cathy Ives, in her sandals and sun visor, surveys the carnage. She’s a citizen trash-trawler, her and her little red wagon, holiday or not, scouring the beach for the non-biodegradable: Styrofoam and booze bottles (though both are banned); plastic water bottles; torn Mylar balloons; boogie boards that crumble into foam beads, becoming bird or fish “food”; fast-food wrappers for sandwiches; cardboard boxes for pizza; and those little packets of hot sauce. (Predacious gulls pick through the piles or hungrily eye human junk haulers.)

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