BARRY GRAHAM, author of books including THE BOOK OF MAN (an American Library Association best book of the year), THE WRONG THING (finalist for SPINETINGLER MAGAZINE best novel of the year), WHEN IT ALL COMES DOWN TO DUST (a MYSTERY PEOPLE best book of the year) and KILL YOUR SELF: LIFE AFTER EGO, an Amazon Kindle bestseller in the Zen category.

A Brief Eulogy for Charles Bowden

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I’m trying to think of something to say about my friend Chuck Bowden—in my opinion the greatest U.S. nonfiction writer of his generation—who died in his sleep yesterday afternoon.

I’ve already said some of it to The Arizona Republic and to my friend Michael Kiefer, whose articles can be read by clicking on the links, and I said a little bit in a column I wrote in 1997, when I first met Bowden. So I guess all that’s left to say is personal.

Bowden was the biggest influence on how I write nonfiction. Along with that influence, he was a breathtakingly kind, supportive friend and mentor. He recommended me to the editors of national magazines, and, sometimes, when he was offered work he didn’t have the time or inclination to do, he would ask me if I was interested. He was just as supportive of many other writers, even though he stated that writers were “worthless scum,” including himself.

He took friendship as seriously as his writing, with equal artistry and attention to detail; he was a fine cook, and when I was coming for dinner he would ask me in advance what he had cooked the last time I had visited, so he could do something different this time. Reading his books probably made me a better writer, and his friendship certainly made me a better man.

He declared:

I speak for the mongrel, the mestizo, the half-breed, the bastard, the alley-cat, the cur, the hybrid, the mule, the whore, the unforeseen strain that pounds against all the safe and disgusting doors. I speak for vitality, rough edges, torn fences, broken walls, wild rivers, sweat-soaked sheets. Who would want a world left mumbling to itself, a perfect garden with the dreaded outside, the fabled Other held at bay and the neat rows of cultures and genes safe behind some hedgerow?

Bowden risked his life to give voice to the voiceless. He said things no one else did, and he said them better than anyone else could. He was as much a prophet as a reporter, and his death is a loss to all who know the importance of bearing witness.

The Zen of Jake Hinkson

In All Due Respect #3, there’s an interview with Jake Hinkson, author of Hell on Church Street (for my review of that, click here), in which he says:

There’s a lot of comfort in the myth of personality—the myth that says people just are who they are—but it’s not true. The reality, I think, is that personality is always in flux and it’s always contingent on context. The rough materials of a personality may stay the same, but people grow or they shrink, they get better or they get worse. Some people gain wisdom. Others calcify in old ways of thinking.

Hinkson articulates why I believe in neither punishment nor redemption. Unless you catch and punish a person at the exact moment that they commit the crime, you can’t punish that person, because they won’t exist for long enough. By the time a person is executed for murder, the murderer is long gone, and the person who is executed has been reborn many times.

edens-blog:

beben-eleben:

Jim Dingilian proves that a creative and skillful artist can create works of art with just about anything. By coating the interior of empty glass bottles with black smoke and then carefully brushing it away with tools mounted on dowels, he creates detailed and beautiful but dark works of smoke art that are dripping with a sense of suburban decay (via Bored Panda).



I’m equally awestruck by Dingilian’s artistic talent and the method by which he creates it.
Zoom Info
edens-blog:

beben-eleben:

Jim Dingilian proves that a creative and skillful artist can create works of art with just about anything. By coating the interior of empty glass bottles with black smoke and then carefully brushing it away with tools mounted on dowels, he creates detailed and beautiful but dark works of smoke art that are dripping with a sense of suburban decay (via Bored Panda).



I’m equally awestruck by Dingilian’s artistic talent and the method by which he creates it.
Zoom Info
edens-blog:

beben-eleben:

Jim Dingilian proves that a creative and skillful artist can create works of art with just about anything. By coating the interior of empty glass bottles with black smoke and then carefully brushing it away with tools mounted on dowels, he creates detailed and beautiful but dark works of smoke art that are dripping with a sense of suburban decay (via Bored Panda).



I’m equally awestruck by Dingilian’s artistic talent and the method by which he creates it.
Zoom Info
edens-blog:

beben-eleben:

Jim Dingilian proves that a creative and skillful artist can create works of art with just about anything. By coating the interior of empty glass bottles with black smoke and then carefully brushing it away with tools mounted on dowels, he creates detailed and beautiful but dark works of smoke art that are dripping with a sense of suburban decay (via Bored Panda).



I’m equally awestruck by Dingilian’s artistic talent and the method by which he creates it.
Zoom Info
edens-blog:

beben-eleben:

Jim Dingilian proves that a creative and skillful artist can create works of art with just about anything. By coating the interior of empty glass bottles with black smoke and then carefully brushing it away with tools mounted on dowels, he creates detailed and beautiful but dark works of smoke art that are dripping with a sense of suburban decay (via Bored Panda).



I’m equally awestruck by Dingilian’s artistic talent and the method by which he creates it.
Zoom Info
edens-blog:

beben-eleben:

Jim Dingilian proves that a creative and skillful artist can create works of art with just about anything. By coating the interior of empty glass bottles with black smoke and then carefully brushing it away with tools mounted on dowels, he creates detailed and beautiful but dark works of smoke art that are dripping with a sense of suburban decay (via Bored Panda).



I’m equally awestruck by Dingilian’s artistic talent and the method by which he creates it.
Zoom Info
edens-blog:

beben-eleben:

Jim Dingilian proves that a creative and skillful artist can create works of art with just about anything. By coating the interior of empty glass bottles with black smoke and then carefully brushing it away with tools mounted on dowels, he creates detailed and beautiful but dark works of smoke art that are dripping with a sense of suburban decay (via Bored Panda).



I’m equally awestruck by Dingilian’s artistic talent and the method by which he creates it.
Zoom Info
edens-blog:

beben-eleben:

Jim Dingilian proves that a creative and skillful artist can create works of art with just about anything. By coating the interior of empty glass bottles with black smoke and then carefully brushing it away with tools mounted on dowels, he creates detailed and beautiful but dark works of smoke art that are dripping with a sense of suburban decay (via Bored Panda).



I’m equally awestruck by Dingilian’s artistic talent and the method by which he creates it.
Zoom Info
edens-blog:

beben-eleben:

Jim Dingilian proves that a creative and skillful artist can create works of art with just about anything. By coating the interior of empty glass bottles with black smoke and then carefully brushing it away with tools mounted on dowels, he creates detailed and beautiful but dark works of smoke art that are dripping with a sense of suburban decay (via Bored Panda).



I’m equally awestruck by Dingilian’s artistic talent and the method by which he creates it.
Zoom Info
edens-blog:

beben-eleben:

Jim Dingilian proves that a creative and skillful artist can create works of art with just about anything. By coating the interior of empty glass bottles with black smoke and then carefully brushing it away with tools mounted on dowels, he creates detailed and beautiful but dark works of smoke art that are dripping with a sense of suburban decay (via Bored Panda).



I’m equally awestruck by Dingilian’s artistic talent and the method by which he creates it.
Zoom Info

edens-blog:

beben-eleben:

Jim Dingilian proves that a creative and skillful artist can create works of art with just about anything. By coating the interior of empty glass bottles with black smoke and then carefully brushing it away with tools mounted on dowels, he creates detailed and beautiful but dark works of smoke art that are dripping with a sense of suburban decay (via Bored Panda).

I’m equally awestruck by Dingilian’s artistic talent and the method by which he creates it.

(via ruckawriter)

Pico Iyer thinks meditation is a gated community. He’s wrong.

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I like much of Pico Iyer’s writing, but, as this article reminds me, he regards contemplative practice as the domain of the 1%. Like another elitist/classist, Thich Nhat Hanh, he either assumes that everyone has the money and leisure to attend retreats, or else he is only interested in addressing those who do.

In saying that in response to emotional hurt we should go to a “retreat house,” Iyer seems to forget that for most people a day of devastating sadness or grief has something in common with most other days—work that must be done, bills that must be paid, children to be taken care of, the everyday struggle to survive.

What Iyer calls “the emergency room for the soul” must be found where we are, not in some distant, silent location. (I’m skeptical of his claims about silence, anyway; in silent retreats, I’ve experienced neither silence nor retreat, but found that the mind produces the loudest noise.) Stillness is something that must be found in movement, silence in noise, peace in anger, calm in stress. 

I had a Zen student who lived in poverty in a big city. He had no car, and his job was a 90-minute bus ride from where he lived. He told me he didn’t have time to sit in meditation for very long in the mornings and evenings—he just had time to eat and get enough sleep. I told him that the bus, where he spent a total of three hours a day, was his zendo, the place where he could practice, could sit still and pay attention, could notice his breathing or sit with a koan.

Almost anyplace in any city can be your zendo. Meditation is not a vacation, it’s work. And it’s a matter of life and death, not a hobby for rich people.

I just got a package in the mail from my friend M.V. Moorhead, containing these two books—Gold Medal paperbacks! The Burnett one is perfectly timed, as I’m writing a column about him for The Big Click.
The only one of Hamilton’s Matt Helm novels I’ve read is The Removers. I remember liking it, but that was decades ago, so I’m looking forward to reading The Betrayers.
Speaking of Moorhead, and of pulp fiction—he’s the author of a great zombie novel, The Night Before Christmas of the Living Dead.

I just got a package in the mail from my friend M.V. Moorhead, containing these two books—Gold Medal paperbacks! The Burnett one is perfectly timed, as I’m writing a column about him for The Big Click.

The only one of Hamilton’s Matt Helm novels I’ve read is The Removers. I remember liking it, but that was decades ago, so I’m looking forward to reading The Betrayers.

Speaking of Moorhead, and of pulp fiction—he’s the author of a great zombie novel, The Night Before Christmas of the Living Dead.