Welcome II

I have decided to add to this web site my short stories I’ve written so far.   Looking for lots of feedback here, people — mainly, would you buy this or short stories like this? Why or why not?

Chinese Language Attracts Younger Fans in Small U.S. Town

Xinhua News Agency’s Houston Bureau learned of a primary school in Stafford, Texas, that begins teaching a Chinese language in kindergarten to enthusiastic pupils, and assigned me to do the English version of the story which ran Feb. 10, 2012.  As I only know one word in Chinese — Xinhua — I was suitably impressed with these remarkable children, their teacher and the school administrator who spearheaded the program.

HOUSTON, Feb. 10 (Xinhua) — Six-year-old Derrick Hill is eager to learn new words in Chinese during his dual language course at a primary school in Texas state. The Hispanic-origin boy now starts teaching his mom and dad Chinese at home.

Hill is not the only pupil fascinated by the Chinese language at Stafford Primary School, which is the only school in Texas offering English-Chinese dual language classes to kindergarten and first-grade pupils.

As the world becomes more integrated and China emerges as an economic powerhouse, Stafford Primary, the small town elementary school is ambitious to envisage its pupils a brighter future by teaching them one of the most widely spoken languages in the world.

“Bilingual education starts here,” said Kim Vu, 43, principal of Stafford Primary School, who spearheaded the dual language classes in 2010 and implemented it last year.


Public Education Cuts: The Horror Flick

In my Aquarius birthday week that officially marks my eligibility to be courted by AARP and planners of prepaid funerals,  I join history’s old fogies, including Socrates, who’ve worried about the younger generations’ preparedness to carry on  the important work of managing the world’s future.

This concern is fueled by the proposed federal budget cuts — particularly in the area of education — made necessary, we are told, because of entitlement programs like Social Security, Medicare, welfare queens in limousines and illegal immigrants clogging schools and hospital emergency rooms.

Bosh. Taken all together, that cost is a pittance when compared with the amount the country is forfeiting in tax revenue — particularly the fair portion too long exempted for wealthy corporations and individuals who fly unscathed through government-approved loopholes.

But before returning to my topic — my vision of the Mad Max-like world a crumbling public education system would ignite — I pause to cheer the Wisconsin teachers who I fervently hope will be the forerunners of an Egypt-scale national protest against the proposed cuts.  Such cuts would relegate legions of educators to record unemployment lines and further depress  the economy along with supporters of public learning throughout the nation.

The specter of the Under- and Totally Uneducated as ruled by the Obstinately Unenlightened is scarier than “Night of the Living Dead,” “Planet of the Apes” and “Quest for Fire” put together.

Any political party or politician who could sleep after voting for deep cuts in the education budget that paves the way for any productive future gets an automatic “F” in math, science, history and sanity.

Our already critically understaffed public schools are hard-pressed to meet the demands of a rapidly multiplying student population.

The decade-long horror that is our unworkable economy and unsustainable no-more-taxes-for-the-rich mandates have now led us to the brink of economic self-destruction. As a country, we seem hell-bent on decimating the very programs that once made our country unchallenged as the leader of the free world.

We are rapidly ridding ourselves of responsibility for the education of our children, for providing jobs, for producing marketable made-in-the-USA goods, of once-healthy funds established to protect the elderly. We are eliminating the safety nets of law enforcement, environmental care, stabilization of infrastructure,  benefits to be gleaned from space exploration, etc.

We are rushing to take the last steps of every failed empire throughout history: Greece, Rome, China, Mongolia, Britain, Germany, Japan, the Soviet Union.  If we don’t blow ourselves to bits during the rest of the century, our descendants can watch the Rise and Fall of China, Part II.

It is of the utmost urgency that sane people question our skewed priorities. Action long overdue is required to bring public attention to our love affair with the  ravenously greedy pods of corporate fascism that are replacing a sleeping democracy.

This country is more politically and economically divided than during the Civil War. Our elected mad government scientists must be stopped in their extermination of the middle class and fair pay system for skilled professionals, employees and tradesmen not necessarily destined to become a chief executive of operations, lobbyist or hedge-fund Machiavelli.

Our future demands  an America where education, affordable health care, job creation, law enforcement, defense and infrastructure, consumer and environmental safety are more than campaign slogans.

Let’s recapture our country and ideals, wresting them from the world’s corporate owners and their purchased political pawns. Until the brain-dead zombies actually take over the planet, we might consider the old-fashioned notion of electing public officials who will serve the public interest.

Our swift fall in the past few decades in test scores, job markets and qualified people who can fill changing employment needs and  rising number of pregnant single teens are reasons enough to turn any evening into Fright Night.

We are in or on the brink of a not-so-great worldwide depression and are very close to joining the ranks of Third World nations. “Trickle down” from wealth has not trickled. Companies are creating — and not hiring — the jobless. The wealthy are not investing in America, they are hording their money in numbered off-shore bank accounts.

Americans who are not benefiting from the fallout are beginning to notice their eroding human rights, deteriorating ability to generate income to cover basic needs, ever-shrinking paychecks and benefits. People whose money once  constituted a healthy tax base are realizing the Social Security system is not broken; the money has been stolen.  The system was solvent before it was funneled through new laws and rules to pay for other government priorities like propping up tyrannical regimes and other projects and programs of politically connected industries, corporations and individual campaign donors.

Will we have a world where the uneducated poor are shuffled off to prisons, labor camps, workhouses while paying for government-subsidized private schools for the offspring of entitled, privileged, tax sheltered, loop-hole creative and largely exempt top percentile of this country?

Latter-day plantation owners are cheered on by the media-spun and lobby-fed illusion that they are patriotic, God-fearing, philanthropic leaders who deeply care about the field-hand majority.  Meanwhile, our jobs are being sent overseas.  More Americans lack the money, connections,  leverage and energy needed to influence those who might actually have an interest in stopping the idiocy, apathy, complacency, misdirection and outright lies readily embraced by America’s increasingly intolerant, uninformed masses.

The former silent majority is no longer silent while being courted by reelection-hungry U.S. lawmakers. These new patriots demand a return to the “original” U.S. Constitution that promised an end to tyrannical rule and the Bill of Rights that allows their access to rapid-fire, semi-automatic weapons not usually used for home protection or hunting. Unmentioned are the amendments that provide a free press, ended America’s slave trade and gave women the vote.

What remains of our once-thriving middle classes happily wave the flag and stand as the National Anthem is played before sporting events without noticing that their values and way of life are being systematically swept away.

My vision of the future is one created by history’s revisionists, a weird wonderland where spin-masters posing as journalists paint the white roses red and government leaders are a pack of cards in a rigged game where aces are automatically dealt to the highest bidder.

I’m afraid there are enough politicians tap-dancing while our country’s long-term mismanagement has put the entire world on a path of global depression that could make the 1930s version seem like a glamorous Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers musical.

WORST-CASE SCENARIO:  An increase in unchecked street crime by people too poor to attend the corporate-, church-, community-sponsored, privatized schools that eventually replace public education.   Some criminal vocations will end when their white-collar criminal counterparts create corporate-privatized prison states and labor camps.  Children not in school, or in overcrowded classrooms managed by stressed-out, overworked teachers, might again be able to afford a bowl of gruel as labor laws are altered.

We will continue to see the little money made by people lucky enough to have largely digital-world, sales, marketing, collections jobs increasingly propping up “allied” repressive regimes and their U.S.-supported despots and military henchmen. The corporate powers who run the entire world will continue the well-honed practice of seeding corruption in their anointed appointed. These new tyrants will continue the patterns of the old tyrants, turning a blind eye to the suffering of their people while fattening their lucre made larger as they sell off their country’s resources.  And so we will continue to incur hatred of America by the rank and file of countries and continents where the corporate fascists and their toady politician prostitutes have installed another “ally” tyrant who agree to rob his people before he turns on the vested interests that lifted him to his lofty status and funded his war chests and private Swiss bank accounts.

We have done this throughout the Middle East, South America, Southeast Asia, Europe’s Baltic and Latin states, and seem destined to reenact this ever-failing policy of establishing and supporting these despots who, in league with U.S. interests,  have robbed the citizenry of these countries for more than a century.

THE CALL TO ACTION:  People of the United States of America need to wake up long enough to see that their entire system and way of life and Constitution are being trampled with impunity. They won’t learn it from their corporate-owned politicians, “fair and balanced” media or in their likely-to-be-eliminated civics classes of the soon-to-be-defunct public school system.

MY SOAP-BOX FINALE WHERE I GET TO HARP ON MY ALREADY-REPETITIOUS CAUTION ALERTS JUST BECAUSE IT IS MY BLOG AND MY BIRTHDAY:  People need to watch what business-allied leaders are doing in towns, cities, states, countries, the oceans. They need to wonder what happened to our spacious skies, amber waves of grain and brotherhood from sea to shining sea. In a perfect world or in classic- or horror-film style, we need to rise up as a people and declare that we are sick of the slime attacking from within our system of government of, for and by the people. Hopefully, people who have benefited from education and can lead productive lives in their workplace, community and family.

But we’ve been willingly diverted from paying attention to the forces that govern our lives.  Rather than examine why our world has gotten into such bad shape, it’s easier just to turn on “Dancing with the Stars,” just as our 1930s counterparts escaped with Fred and Ginger on the silver screen.

It’s much simpler to watch evil aliens turn human brains to mush rather than take politicians to task who would eliminate public education with much the same result.  We can happily watch creatures from Outer Space destroy our planet while ignoring those who truly are slicing and dicing through our inadequate defenses and will blow our arrogant and increasingly ignorant, illiterate, utterly clueless and completely useless society to smithereens.

If the future renders people too stupid to ward off an actual disaster, survivor stories would make for a really great TV reality show, doncha think?

The Right to Write; Write to Right

My perfect, part-time job with Dionysus Theatre wound to a close just before Christmas, so I’m back on the market as a job hunter / freelance writer.

Nearing March 23, my 2-year anniversary since being laid off from the Houston Chronicle after losses of revenue and advertising, I’ve managed to do  nearly everything wrong in establishing myself in the latter category of writing stories that might lead to a freelance career.

Even with the help of my most noble friend, a freelance photographer whose site is linked on this page, I have gone about this freelance business — as, in fact, a real work-from-home business — badly, with the exception of getting on WordPress (also his idea), which I shall REALLY begin to update more often.  As God (or Whatever) is my witness, I shall NEVER go wordless again.

Here’s my 21-Gun Salute to Death by Pen:

1) Put off writing anything until you have a workable outline in the hope that your time would be better employed through pursuing REAL employment. And there is always “must see TV.”

2) Rely solely on former coworkers and friends at newspapers or magazines or internet sites to call you with an assignment.

3) Do not investigate markets (print, online, smoke signals) to see what types of news, feature, special-interest, micro-special interest are contracting with freelance writers in your town, state, region, nation, world.

4) Spend no time contemplating areas in which you have some degree of experience or interest.

5) Do not consider scope.  This is limiting.  You have every right to start with “The Origin of Navel Lint”and expand it to include “The Companion Guide to the History of the World.”

6) Question the wisdom of spending the money to buy a guide, such as Writers Digest, or any current-year publication bearing on how to get your news, features, nonfiction or fiction stories, books or e-books published.

7) Do NOT use a highlighter and-or bookmarks to note the markets that match the faves on your subject list of expertise and interest. Librarians and parents have warned you not to deface books.  You stand doubly warned.

8) Shun bookstores with racks containing local to international magazine racks and newspapers and study ones that match your “I’d like to write about…..” list.

9) Completely ignore the web addresses and names of contact editors and guidelines for submissions, or checking back issues to see if the publication has printed something similar in the past few years.

10) If other writers have written on your subject, consider it taboo and scrub the idea entirely. Do not alter or repackage it for that or other publications. If you find a story on “tree” and your subject is “acorn,” drop all landscaping/gardening/wildlife story ideas from your list immediately.

11) Do not bother honing and expanding your list of subjects in which you have knowledge and-or interest (from expert level to merely curious) while continuing to research the top four or five on the list and matching them to previously overlooked or emerging online/print publications that will actually pay you for your efforts.

12) Send your story idea to “To Whom it May Concern” without learning how to write a query letter addressed to a specific editor with an idea tailored to that particular publication.

13) Never edit your prose. Send query letters in stream-of-consciousness mode. If you get the nod to pursue the article, do not bother to check things as mundane as spelling or pertinent facts, as your time is valuable and you have other research, query letters and articles to pursue.

13-A) Avoid subplots or sub-topcs.  This will only confuse people.

14) Do not sign on to forums or join networking groups with other freelancers. They are your competitors and you wouldn’t want anyone to think you were stealing the ideas of others. Or worse, expose your ideas to potential intellectual product thieves.

15) Join one of the many “hub” sites for writers that offer you the chance to receive royalties (starting with 1-cent per word) for the rest of your life, depending on how many tens of thousand “hits” your article receives on the www. These companies are out to assist talent by teaching you how to douse your articles with “key” words that attract the attention of both readers and advertisers.

16) Stay within the box. Use cliches, bromides, colloquialisms with impunity to create articles that impart a sense of camaraderie with readers of all intelligence levels, including that of plant life.

17) Stay secure in the knowledge that scope and the task of staying on topic are limiting to the creative process. Ignore them. Start your article off with a small subject — “The origins of Navel Lint” — and expanding it into the “Companion Guide to the History of the World.” Or the other way around.

18) By all means, inject your beliefs, philosophies, mention of your achievements, opinions of those who disagree with your opinions, whenever possible. You have the right to write — and  to right the world through writing.  Everyone is intensely interested in what you think.  This is the the kind of dog-fight-dog mud-slinging people will buy, tune in for,  pick as a favorite post or — better yet — rally behind.  Plus, you’ll get extra points in Heaven.

19) Defend your work when hit with suggestions or criticism of any form from editors. Letters of rejection should be immediately followed with your letter to that editor in which you explain how wrong-headed, imbecilic and moronic he/she is. Explore with him/her how the loss of your article is the death knell for that publication.

20) Never save your work once a story is published, and do not use an idea for a story more than once. No one else but the publication that bought the story is interested in a revision or additional material re-tailored to fit another market.

21) Do not make lists.

Dionysus Theatre, my new job (and honor)

Have I mentioned that I am employed?  By angels?

No kidding.  After a year and a half of unemployment, religiously sending out hundreds of resumes that seem to have all turned into smoke signals and evaporated,  I am proud to announce that I am a working gal again, albeit on a part-tine basis.

For a small part of the week, I get to publicize and get news out about one of the truly great theaters in the world, Dionysus Theatre in Houston, Tx., the only theater in the Lone Star State that includes actors with disabilities alongside able-bodied actors.

There is no need to “spin” anything.  The truth of this little theater and its mission of inclusion, that it takes people with visible and hidden disabilities from the shadows to the spotlight –where they shine — makes this job a privilege.

I’ve only done publicity on one show so far, and already this is my favorite job of my entire life.  Thank you, all those people in my former job who decided that I was to be included in the 200 people laid off in March 2009, for making this possible.   Really.

These are the most talented people I’ve ever had the joy of working with.  Under the guidance of Deb Nowinski, who founded the theater 12 years ago, the best is brought forward in her actors and in her staff and in her audiences.  It’s amazing to watch this theater’s motto come to life:  “Saving Lives One Act at a Time.”

Next up is a “sampler” of what Dionysus Theatre does, a free meet-and-greet beginning at 7 p.m. at the Joe Frank Theater (space Dionysus Theatre rents from the Jewish Community Center, 5601 S. Braeswood. The casts of the past four productions that constituted the main theater’s, youth theater’s and touring troupe’s 12th season, will offer highlights from each show that paid homage to communities of differences — the autistic in Autistic License, the deaf in Children of a Lesser God, developmentally disabled in “The Boys Next Door” and the foibles of childhood in the musical, “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.”

I hope everyone who is interested in entertainment, education, inclusion  and just having a good time on a Thursday evening will come out on Sept. 2 and meet this inspiring group of actors, directors and supporters, old and new.

I am working with angels.  I never really believed in angels before, but I have to now that I’m actually seeing them on a fairly regular basis.  Head angel is Deb, a fiery red-head who turns disabled people from introverted, shy people who have learned to stay in the margins of life, into stars. She’s a miracle worker.

This company will again drum up support during its 4th gala for supporters on Cct. 16 at the Mariott Hotel in Houston.  Come eat, bid on fantastic prizes at the silent and live auctions, and have a good time while supporting this excellent nonprofit theater.

The gala’s theme will be “Building on a Dream” to note that this theater company is looking for a permanent home.  Renting from the JCC is great, but Dionysus — a god who had a clubbed foot, did you know that? — needs his own digs.

Anybody have a theater for sale — or space that would lend itself to being built out as a theater — in Houston?

Memorial Day

As usual this year on Memorial Day, I will mourn friends lost in Vietnam.

It’s somehow a different holiday for people who have served in uniform, or have attended  high school with, or even dated, the people behind the names inscribed on a wall honoring the fallen soldiers.

As I write this, we will apparently observe Memorial Day this year by sending National Guard troops to the Texas-Mexican border. Several of the people I know have predicted that we may end up in another war with Mexico, or at least the drug lords who run Mexico now. (Some are more gleeful about this proposition than others.)

What are we going to do, post troops and create more mourned veterans and more names on walls?

Jamaica is actively safeguarding — with guns — Mr. Christopher Coke (apparently his real name) who is more than simply ignoring orders of extradition to the United States to face charges stemming from allegations that he is a drug lord who is trafficking arms and people to our shores.

We still see no real end — with or without the honor of saving face — to the wars in Iran and Afghanistan, and an escalation of the Taliban in the latter country, where killing of Americans has evidently become a Taliban sport even as we spend millions to “turn” them into passive, peacekeeping, pro-American poppy growers.

Just heard that the European financial market is crashing — Greece, Italy, Spain, Ireland, if not more, and that this is to adversely affect our already dour economy.

Phoenix, AZ, is laying off a large number of workers in entertainment and hotel industries as people across the nation protest the latest immigration policy law, with 1,300 National Guardsmen being sent at the request ot the AZ governor.

Also this Memorial Day, as if we needed more, I just heard from my TV almost always set on CNN that the U.S. is training with South Korea’s military off the coast of Korea, because of North Korea’s likely being the source of the fire that resulted in the sinking of a South Korean ship.

And no one can figure out what to do about our financial crisis or governing or curtailing the ownership by corporations of our government.

Speaking of which, BP and the U.S. government, supposedly working together with their top scientists, have yet to stop the oil leak spreading across 75 miles so far and ruining the charter boat and fishing industry, let alone the restaurant and tourism business, of southern Louisiana.

Before it’s through, it may devestate industries and sea-friendly fish and wildlife in the Gulf for zillions of years in Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Texas and, if it reaches around the nation’s Florida Keys, the entire Eastern shore, spreading halfway or more to Western Europe.

Already, joining the oil that is choking the life out of fisheries, dolphin, etc., is 700,000 gallons of chemicals have been unleashed in so-far failed attempts to “eat” all the oil.

When taken together — or even one at a time — it kind of makes sense to just take in the red, white and blue, star-shooting, firecracker-popping bargains and super sales, or just lay back and open few cold ones, and listen to Lee Greenwood sing about how proud he is to be an American, right?

It’s the new patriotism and salve for our All-American mess.

Another anti-war blog

On this anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima, it’s a pair of eyes I remember.  Aged, greyish white eyes without pupils, unnerving to view.  From their side, they had seen nothing since the old woman who possessed them was a 12-year-old schoolgirl.

She was walking in a field just outside Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945, when the bomb fell. The blast was the last vision  she saw on this earth.

She was my landlady in the mid-1970s in Japan, where I was stationed with the U.S. Navy in Yokosuka and assigned to the public affairs office to write press releases for the base newspaper, Pacific Stars and Stripes, the Far East Network broadcast services and All Hands magazine.

She asked me to call her “Mama-san,” as she thought that would be easier for me, since her real name was unpronounceable to Americans she met.

She rented to me and to Americans before me a home in Zushi with a thatched roof, tatami mat floors and rice-paper walls that overlooked the Sea of Japan.  It has always remained my favorite of all the houses and apartments I have called home.

I asked her why, given her blindness from the bomb, she didn’t resent Americans and why she liked to rent to us.. She said we were friendly and laughed a lot.

She also liked the fact that we supplied the arms umbrella agreement to defend Japan in the event of its attack, the Status of Armed Forces Agreement.

Mama-san was a very practical lady.

She clearly remembered that blast, the screams of the dying, the smells of decay from too many corpses and animals for the small remaining workforce to burn quickly enough.  She didn’t talk about the days afterward, a newly blind orphan finding her way among the bodies and flattened buildings.

She believed, like the pilot of the Enola Gay that dropped the bomb, Floyd Tibbets, and his bombadier that day, that the atomic bomb that had also helped to end the war.

Japan’s major fleets and its airforce had been defeated, its military down to sending small children to pilot kamakaze flights, their feet strapped to books to enable them to reach the aircraft’s pedals, but I’ll take Mama-san’s word..

It seems a moot point when visiting the Peace Museum in Hiroshima, which catalogs the bombing second by second, minute by minute, then the hideous horror in the day-by-day aftermath.

Samples of radiated skin from the days that followed are under glasss, day 1, day 2, day 3, etc., are carefully preserved, alongside curled school books still bound with the belt of a child who was toting them. 

Then there’s the ouline of a family literally burned onto a wall, a husband and wife apparently trying to shield a baby when they were incinerated on the spot.  The outline, like chalk that surrounds a corpse at a murder scene, was the only trace left of them.

Mama-san’s entire family — her parents and siblings — all died in the blast.

In the 1970s when I knew her, just more than 30 years since the mushroom cloud rose over her childhood home, she told me she was glad the U.S. picked up the tab for Japan’s defense.  Her taxes, she said, included only a few dollars for defense compared with what U.S. citizens paid to keep Japan a less-than-desirable target again.

She was glad that Japan, under the terms of the treaty, would not build more than a token military.

I would gladly pay, if I could, to keep such a horror from happening, as would anyone who has ever visited Hiroshima, where all the businesses, streets and infrastructure — everything — are less than 70 years old.

Except for the burned-out shell of the building in the blast’s epicenter and a few old-timers of Hiroshima’s civilian population, people who still have sores that have never healed and never will, and radiated ground that left succeeding generations in ill health, everything is relatively and uncomfortably new.

War is hell, somebody said.

Despite  her practicality and her smiles as she sightlessly served me tea in flowing robes that hid her burned body, Mama-san knows that to be a true assessment.