Wednesday, October 31, 2007

More Brains

Every now and then I come across a volume in my library that I intended to read years ago, but never did. Such was the case two days ago when I discovered (high up on my shelves) another book about brains: How Brains Think. It's a biology book, very cerebral, thoughtful, and thought-provoking. But then, it's a book about brains.

Why am I stuck on brains all of a sudden? First there was the biography of Einstein, then I had to read a follow-up book about the stealing of Einstein's brain, and now this. Am I thinking straight? Do I have a brain in my head? Am I thinking too much about brains?

I know! I should go back to Evansville, stand in line at the Fall Festival (run by the West-side Nut Club nonetheless), and order a brain sandwich. Ever had one? They are for real. Kind of makes you think, doesn't it?

Friday, October 26, 2007

My Wife's Other Man

A few months ago, I pitched an idea for writing a magazine article about my wife. A few weeks later, the editor called me. "We love the idea of doing an article about your wife," he told me. "She's an amazing woman. But we've looked into your background, seen what you've written, and discovered that you're an incompetent. So we're sending another writer to do the article about your wife."

Of course, I was devastated. After all, how could another man possibly write about my wife? I mean, I know this woman. We talk two or three times a month, eat dinner together twelve to fourteen times a year, and have spawned two children in our twenty-three years together. I know her moods, her looks, and the taste of her meatloaf. And when she comes home from a hard day in the classroom, who's going to be there to rub her shoulders and tell her that the garbage can needs to be emptied? This other writer? Hardly!

Well, two can play this game. I'm going to see if I can pick up an assignment writing about some supermodel, or maybe a construction worker with large, rose-colored tattoos. And as for my wife's other man . . . I can't wait to see what he's written.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

At the Mall

As the holidays approach, I usually get a few phone calls from book store owners/managers wondering if I'd be willing to do a book signing. Since I don't have any new books to sign this year, I doubt I'll be doing any (thank God).

Thinking about signings, though, brought back one memory. I was at a mall bookstore, sitting at a little card table with a stack of my pre-marital titles, when a guy walked up with his girlfriend and started screaming: "I know what you're trying to do! You're not fooling me! You're just trying to trick me into buying one of your books!"

The irony wasn't lost on me...I guess he wanted to make sure his girlfriend got the picture. Merry Christmas, sweetheart! Good luck with your dude!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Reading Starbucks

Today I was reading my Starbucks coffee cup: "The Way I See It". The quote was: "There is a special place in hell for women who don't help women." Madeleine Albright, former secretary of state and ambassador to the U.N.

Now, I don't know too much about special places in hell, but I thought I'd add a few of my own to the list. There also might be a special place in hell for:

The guy who invented the reality T.V. show
Pro athletes who don't like dogs
The person who invented the vegamite sandwich (have you tried one of these!!!)
Dentists who enjoy working without novacain
The guy who coined the phrase, "There's a special place in hell..."

Oh, and I'm now saving my coffee cups as souveniers. I've got fourteen and I won't stop until I fill up my garage with slogans.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Identity Theft

True Story.
A few years back I was perusing in a world-famous bookstore in Denver, Colorado when I happened to spot three copies of one of my books. I removed them from the shelf, walked over to a store manager (a young, peach-fuzzed dude with so many body piercings I thought he might spring a leak), and said, "Hey, I'm the author of these books. I'd be happy to sign them if you think it might help them to sell."

The guy looks me over, takes one of the books, studies the photo on the back cover and says, "Yeah, I can see a resemblance. But I'm afraid I'll have to see some ID."

I'm thinking: Does this guy really think I fly around the country, go into bookstores, and do author impersonations just so I can sign a flyleaf or practice my caligraphy?

I put the books back on the shelf, signed them when he wasn't looking, and walked out. Any other writers have a horror story to share?

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


Last night I finished reading the 400 page tome, All the Money in the World--How the Forbes 400 Make, and Spend, Their Fortunes, by Peter Bernstein and Ann Swan. It's a book about billionaires, and I began to think: how long would it take me to become a billionaire?

So I emailed one of my old high school friends who is good in math (actually, he's a taxidermist who has an expensive pocket calculator with trigonometric functions) and asked him to calculate the year I'd become a billionaire, based on my current salary, savings, value of my 1991 Caprice wagon, and the extra money I hope to raise this fall by selling cracked walnuts from my front yard.

He came up with the year 2259. So there you have it. By 2259 I'll also join the Forbes 400 list. I am already making plans to spend my money. I'm going to eat pheasant under glass every day, and I'm going to buy some new socks, a paint-by-number set, a vacation home in Greece, and a large supply of scotch tape (I never seem to have any when I need it). I'll be the guy in Wal-Mart wearing the Armani suit, the $1000 silk tie, and the fashionable earrings.

I have no idea what my wife and kids will be doing.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Book Titles

Have you ever noticed how a book's title can either entice you to read it, or put it back on the shelf? I'd be more apt to want to read, A Streetcar Named Desire, than I would The Firm (no offense to John Grisham). For years, though, James Michener gained the respect of millions of readers for his one word titles like Chesepeake and Hawaii. Roots has been an international-best seller for decades.

I'm not good with book titles--especially one word titles. But here are a few I might begin working on:

Jim (the story of Jim)
Ketchup (the history of a condiment)
Buster (the life and times or our lazy dog)
Peek-a-boo (a children's book)
Insignificant (a book about attitude)

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Who's Counting?

Every fall we United Methodist clergy must complete continuing education forms detailing the number of hours we have spent in various seminars, workshops and events to further our knowledge. Reading also counts as a portion of our education...and I'm glad. Filling out the forms, I discovered that I have read nearly sixty books so far in 2007. That's more than a book a week, which surprises me (when little else does).

Sifting back through my catelogue of books, I lift up just a few that I completed this year--a rather motley assortment of fiction and nonfiction, light and academic. For example, I read C.S. Lewis's science fiction trilogy (probably his most Christian fiction of any of his works), as well as work by Dorothy Sayers (another Oxford academic), Joan Diddion, and Mark Twain. I read biographies of Einstein (2) and Mother Teresa. I read the Pope's latest tome. I also read two books on Islamic fundamentalism, three books by Eugene Peterson, and two by Brian McLaren. I read three books on clergy "burnout" (am I burning out?), and several fun mysery novels and lite fare, including maybe six or seven short story collections. There were also a dozen or so "business" books, which I continue to discover as having crossover elements in the church and leadership. Made to Stick, The No Asshole Rule, and What Got You Here...Won't Get You There--were three excellent examples. I also read portions of over a dozen presidential biographies (which I won't count, since I didn't read them cover to cover). The best of the memoir/science books I read this year would be: The Tall Trees, by Richard Preston.

As I got to thinking about where/how I read all these books, it occured to me that I always have the following: A travelling book (which I carry with me in the car and read when I am waiting for kids, or when I can drive with my feet and read at the same time); a TV book (which I pick up and read during commercials or lulls in programming); vacation books; and a stack of bedtime books (which I tackle most evenings since my wife won't touch me).

Well, you get the picture...there's more than one way to read. I wondering...if I really made a concerted effort, could I read 100 books in a year? Would I? Should I?

Monday, October 8, 2007

Love Poems

Every week at least one person asks me, "Are you writing anything these days?" They assume that I'm working on another book (I always have at least one in progress) or that I've got a column or article about to be published in some journal or magazine (perhaps). But I must confess that it's been tough writing longer works given the time demands of the church and this stage of life that comes with having two teenagers at home. However, I have been writing a lot of love poetry to my wife lately. Great stuff. Heavy breathing verse. My lines often make her swoon in public.

My hot petunia,
We are out of cottage cheese,
And bread, and peanut butter.
When are you going to Wal-Mart?
I pine for a sweet roll,
Something soft and delicate, like you.
Leave me a note
For our paths shall pass again tonight at eleven.

Or this one:

You are the fabric softener of my life.
You, loading the whites and solids.
Me, stuffing mounds of dirty BVDs down the chute.
I think of you as you set the rinse cycle.
My dumpling . . . when can we go for another spin?

It has been lines such as these that have earned my wife's devotion and loyalty through the years. She knows I care. Sometimes we actually talk. Yes . . . I am writing. I have my agent on high alert. And one of these days I'm going to write something so stupendous that my wife will want to read it.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Ted Giesel

Last night I was reaching for an encyclopedia (I frequently read these tomes while I watch TV) when Green Eggs and Ham fell off the shelf. Not food--the book . . . written by Dr. Seuss. The good Dr.'s alter-ego was Ted Giesel, who was just a plain jane guy who liked to illustrate kid's books. He tried writing one himself--The Cat in the Hat--which turned out to be a rather large hit.

Reading this book again brought back many memories with my kids. This was one of our favorites. Still is. Or it's one of my favorites, anyway.

Somewhere in all of us, there is a little Sam-I-Am who is fearful of trying anything new. That's why I tend to wear the same socks for weeks at a time, why my dad has cut my hair since I was two, why I'm still married to the same gal after twenty-three years. I'm afraid to try anything new.

Next time I eat an egg sandwich ("The Big Daddy") I'm going to put a little green food coloring in the yolk and see how it turns out. I might just like Green Eggs and Ham after all.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

The Brains of the Outfit

After reading the biography of Einstein, I was intrigued by a little known fact that Einstein's brain was removed during his autopsy. In point of fact, the brain disappeared, only to reappear years later in the possession of the doctor who had performed the autopsy. The doctor kept Einstein's brain in a tupperware container and distributed it in various sized chunks to pathologists around the world. Eventually, what was left of the brain was offered to Einstein's family, but they refused it.

Considering Einstein's brain in a tupperware container, I got to wondering about my own brain. For what greater purposes might my brain be preserved for observation and study? Well, I think my wife might want to pickle it. She's got a number 10 pickle jar under the sink (in which she saves bacon grease) and I think my brain could fit into it. Add a little food coloring and I think she could make it match the decor in our home, and it would be a great conversation piece. That way, there's a part of me that would live on, and she could continue to ask me questions after I've departed.

I think my brain might also warrant preservation due to my vast knowledge of the Andy Griffith Show. As long as the show lives on in the hearts (and minds!) of faithful viewers, then Goober will never die. My brain could be on display in Mount Airy, North Carolina along with a plaque that reads: The Mayberry Brain. Or it could be a travelling display.

Finally, I could allow my brain to remain in the church office, as there are so many people who drop by every week to ask, "Could I pick your brain a little?" This way, they could actually see something tangible rather than receive my unhelpful counsel and advice. Come to think of it, I may actually be of greater value to people after I've gone. A brain is a terrible thing to waste.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Einstein's Brain

While reading a mammoth biography about Albert Einstein, I was often reminded of my grandmother, who was not particularly impressed by my intelligence. "You're no Einstein," she often told me. My mother often accussed me of having "half a brain." And my wife has been known to call me a "brainless twit."

Not being among the Einsteins of the world, I can say that reading about intelligent people makes me feel practically useless. I've missed out on so much--splitting the atom, gaining notoriety for some advanced theory, building a better rocket. Whatever this kind of ingenuity requires, I certainly don't have it. About the only thing I've invented in my life is a fried egg sandwich which my son makes every morning. He calls it, "The Big Daddy," in honor of his father. Thank you, son!

There are so many questions I'd like to ask uncle Albert E.: Why is my prostate getting smaller? Why can't I talk my way out of a speeding ticket? Why does my wife still love me? I have no answers to these and other universe-altering questions. But my egg sandwich breakthrough does give me a little comfort. E=mc2...that's egg, plus mayo between two slices of crunchy bread. Got it?