Some Old World Wisdom, by Rich Paschall

When thinking of blog topics, there is no shortage of subject matter. Some general areas offer a lot of topics.  With a bit of extra thought, there’s an endless supply. Consider well how many areas you can pursue if you are willing to delve into sports, politics, or religion. Each is bound to set some readers ablaze. Would surely bring lots of comments. You do want lively discussion, don’t you?

How lively do you want it?


Venture into a sports bar well into the evening and you are likely to find plenty of spirited discussions regarding sports.  These ideas should help you out.  Will the Cubs ever win a pennant?  Will the White Sox ever get the love the Cubs get?  Will the Blackhawks win another Stanley Cup?  Will the Bears defeat the hated Green Bay Packers?  Will the Bulls beat the hated ____________ (fill in New York team here)?  There is little reason get into crosstown rivalries. Dissing out-of-town teams only works locally.


We could always take off after the Yankees and A-Rod, the Patriots and _______ (name your alleged scandal here), or Jerry Jones and the Cowboys. But why alienate readers in New York, Boston or Dallas? Perhaps we should just write about the ridiculous BCS Bowl series or the commissioner of _________ (name your least favorite here).

A good informational, yet rather neutral article might find favor.  Others might concede that you are trying to make some point of view, like promoting someone’s stats for the hall of fame. A discussion of gays in sports or an Olympic diver coming out of the closet, might get up into your politics, so we may have to think carefully about those.  Yes, we will leave the political area of sports alone.


Speaking of your politics (or mine), perhaps we can find common ground there. I could write short stories with a political theme, or write about a run for office that brings victory, but no win for the candidate. Too improbable?

How about the death of democracy through campaign spending?  Imagine buying an election. Maybe this hits too close to home … or do you think it merely fiction or satire?  Political satire is sure to get people thinking and arguing, especially if you throw in climate change as the kicker. Then again, maybe no one will bother to read this stuff. Maybe a bad idea after all?

How about hitting the topics head-on in a nice well-researched article? We can talk about Democrats, Republicans, capitalists or socialists. On second thought, that could split the audience from the get-go. Better to look at the subjects of the debates and write a well-reasoned essay.

women's suffrage-2

Where to begin? Abortion? Immigration? Gay Rights? Civil Rights? Gun Control? Campaign reform? Welfare Reform?  Any reform?? National defense?  Can’t we all consider that without alienating people? There’s always alienating the aliens. Can’t go wrong with that, right? Well, maybe not.

If politics is too risky, how about the world’s great religions? They’re all rooted in love, are they not? We could discuss the philosophies that ignite the passions behind our beliefs and thus find common ground. Peace and harmony at last.

Except that so many people believe their god is the only way. Some believe their god is calling them to harm others which sets religion against religious … and alas, there’s nothing new about that. Belief is supposed to bring hope and joy … not more war.

God in on every side of every war, or so they say. Who goes into battle without the blessing of their particular deity? How can I expect to have a civil discussion in such an emotionally charge arena?  I have innocently had to extract my foot from my mouth before … maybe I should let the Dalai Lama write on this topic.

The "Dodge City Peace Commission", June 1888. (L to R) standing: W.H. Harris, Luke Short, Bat Masterson, W.F. Petillon. Seated: Charlie Bassett, Wyatt Earp, Frank McLain and Neal Brown.

The “Dodge City Peace Commission”, June 1888. (L to R) standing: W.H. Harris, Luke Short, Bat Masterson, W.F. Petillon. Seated: Charlie Bassett, Wyatt Earp, Frank McLain and Neal Brown.

Years ago, when one of our favorite innkeepers was still alive, we used to drop by his establishment.  It was a great place for lively discussion. If anyone got a little over-heated, the owner walked over with a wink to say, “No Sports, no politics, no religion!”

Seemingly a strange thing to say when a sports channel was almost always playing nearby, but he meant arguments, not discussions. If arguments got out of hand, he’d say “No Sports, no politics, no religion — or you’re out of here!”

That seemed a good approach to barroom politics. These were the areas of discussion that often ended with unpleasantness. Especially when dialogue was fueled by alcohol. Maybe it short-circuited a few lively discussions, but no doubt he cut off some brawls, too.

Let’s avoid them in the blog-o-sphere and cyberspace too. If Facebook is any indicator, that sounds like a plan!


A friend asked me why I do this, why I blog. So I asked her why she plays golf.

We do what we do because we love it, need to do it, or both. Writing is like breathing. If I don’t write, I suffocate. My friend needs to compete, to be active. To play golf or she will suffocate.

I can’t begin to count the number of people who have told me they want to be writers, but don’t know how to start. They want me to tell them how. Because they asked the question, I’m reasonably sure they will never be writers. If you are a writer, you write. No one has to tell you how or when. You will write and you will keep writing because it is not what you do, it is what you are. It is as much a part of you as your nose or stomach.


I started writing as soon as I learned to read, which was about 45 minutes after someone handed me a book. It was as if a switch had been thrown in some circuit in my brain. Words felt right.

Putting words on paper was exactly the same as speaking, but took longer. I didn’t mind the extra time because I could go back and fix written words. Being able to change my words and keep changing them until they said exactly what I wanted them to say was the grail.

old favorite books

I was awkward socially and my verbal skills were not suited to my age and stage in life. I was not talented at sports. No one wanted me on her team. But I could write, I could read. It gave me wings.

If you are going to be a writer, you know it. Practice will make you a better writer, can help you understand how to build a plot  and produce books that publishers will buy, but writing itself is a gift. If you have it, you know it.

computer gargoyle

Writers have words waiting to be written. Heads full of words, full of sentences, full of pronouns and adjectives and dependent clauses.

Talent comes in an endless number of flavors. Gifts are given. It’s up to us to use them well. My advice to all hopeful writers is: write.

Don’t just talk about it. Do it. Write a lot, as often as you can, even if most of it is bad. Sooner or later, you’ll find your way. If you don’t write, it is your loss, but maybe the world’s loss, too. You will never know how good you could be if you don’t try.



The news has been slow around here. Just regular stuff. Accidents, government stupidity and incompetence, scandals of the famous and wannabes. Politics as usual. Autumn.

It got me wondering about today’s prompt — what we would want of all the possible results — from blogging.

Why do you blog?


A friend asked me why I blog. Which is the same as asking me why I write and take pictures. I felt like asking her why she breathes because writing and shooting is like breathing to me, but instead, I asked her why she plays golf.

She is a fine sportswoman and can’t imagine living a life in which she can’t play or compete. That’s as much who she is as her face.

I write because I have a head full of words. I take pictures because I see them wherever I go. These things are as much part of me as my face or my feet. I can no sooner not write as not breathe.

Go figure.


Back from the mountains, from the north land. Out of 9 days away, 4 were spent entirely in the car. We drove most of the day today and are exhausted. We need to rethink how we take vacations, how much driving we do. How close together we do long drives. 


I am not going back to posting three or four times a day. Garry commented I didn’t seem to be having fun anymore. He’s right. It has become a job. Serendipity has eaten my life.


So I’ve pulled back … and my stats are falling like a rock. Apparently, there’s a direct correlation between how much new material I post and how much traffic I get. So be it. I guess I’ll have to make do with less traffic. Because if I can’t do less, I’m going to quit entirely.


Vacation is a good time to ponder how I spend my time. I realized I spend all my time with the computer in my lap. The only time I’m not hooked up is when I’m physically out of the house, asleep, or cooking. I shouldn’t be surprised my wrists and shoulders hurt.


So … what?

I love comments. I’ll answer comments, but if I don’t answer you every time, it’s not because I don’t care. There aren’t enough hours in my day to keep up this pace. I’ll visit your blogs when I can, but I won’t make myself crazy trying to visit everyone everyday.


I’ll write if I have something to say. Post pictures when I’ve got something worth displaying. It will depend on the season, my mood, and what else is going on. Probably I’ll post more in the winter when I’m stuck in the house anyhow, less in nice weather.

So what do you guys think? Am I being unfair? Unrealistic?

I have stopped visiting bloggers who never visit me. That was easy. I don’t expect daily visits, but never isn’t enough. Never is actually insulting.


I wish I could give everyone a boost. I know you want me to look at your site because you drop links in my comments. Which would be okay if it weren’t obvious you haven’t read me. Or even looked at the pictures.


Blogging — especially over the long haul — is a lot of work. it means keeping at it when you are sick, tired, and you don’t feel remotely creative. It takes determination, patience, and time to write and edit. I’m slower than most people to fully develop an idea. Even slower to edit.

My pictures aren’t just snapshots. I seek pictures and locations … because there are only so many pictures I can take of my backyard before even I don’t want to look at them.

Then I download, review, and finally, process. I don’t do a lot of processing, but I do the basics. Even so, it takes time. Merely reviewing a hundred or so pictures — the output of a typical outing — is a day’s work. I’m often still plugging away at it when everyone else is watching a movie or asleep.

72-oil-yellow-bouqet_05 macro


don’t accept web chain-letter awards. It doesn’t matter what you call the award. Or who is giving it.

Anything that requires I annoy fellow bloggers, most of whom also won’t accept so-called awards, is spam. If you feel compelled to distribute them, send them to someone who has not up front stated he or she does not accept awards. Please: take “no” for an answer. If I say thank you, but no … nagging is just going to piss me off.


So there you have it. It will be interesting to see who keeps visiting. I’ll do the best I can for all of you, but it’s time for a change and I am determined to make it stick.


Yes, I’m going to keep doing it. Because it’s fun. And blogging is supposed to be fun. Expect a new one this Wednesday, September 23rd.


Personally, I can’t remember when I last wrote other than a list by hand. I’ve been touch-typing since I was 10 and never looked back. No one, including me, can read my handwriting. My hands cramp when I try, which isn’t often.

But there are times when you really need something in writing. Back when I was still trying to get established in a profession, I accepted any job with a connection — no matter how tenuous — to writing. In those pre-Internet days, getting a job was simpler than now.

Early Autumn September 11

You phoned or wrote a letter. You attached a résumé or brought it with you. You went for an interview. A day or two later, they called you back. It was either “Yes, you’re hired,” or “No, thank you.”

Every job didn’t require 30 hours of interviewing with everyone from the company president to the IT crew. There was a job to do. You were qualified to do it, or not. Whoever interviewed you had the authority to hire you. That was why he or she was doing the interviewing. Unlike today.


I don’t remember the details of the particular job, but I remember it was in the city. Manhattan. I wasn’t thrilled about its location. I lived in Hempstead, on Long Island. Getting there and back meant taking the Long Island Railroad which was not comfortable or dependable in the 1960s. I’m told it has improved since I last rode it.

I took the job because it was with a large corporation. I thought it might lead to something better. I was working, so I quit the job I had — whatever it was — and two weeks later, on the appointed day, I showed up for work.

The guy who had offered me the job was gone. Quit or fired, no one seemed to know. Moreover, no one had heard of me, or my so-called job. I had nothing in writing. No job. Without proof, I was barely eligible for unemployment. I learned the most critical professional life lesson:


Whatever it is. If it’s not written, dated, and signed, it’s not worth the paper it isn’t written on. Or less.


About this Daily Prompt thing — I guess I’m finished.

I will check to see if there’s an idea worth writing. If and when there is — or when the prompt overlaps what I wanted to write about anyhow — I’ll do it. Otherwise, I’ve given up.

It wasn’t a sudden decision or a conscious choice. I didn’t decide to quit. I got tired, busy, and annoyed with the prompts. Rather than whine about how bad the prompts are, I just didn’t do them.

Life has been a bit overwhelming. I haven’t had patience to deal with prompts that focus on the trivial or morbid. It has been a long time since housework (as an example) was a subject I felt required further discussion.


I don’t know why WordPress chose to kill off both daily and weekly writing challenges. I miss them. The point of following them wasn’t to enlarge my audience, which is as large as I can handle, but to see how many different ways we could all write about the same topic.

It was creative writing. The challenge was in seeing if I could find an interesting approach to the topic. I did pretty well for a couple of years, but the repeats are not challenging. Not for me, anyhow.

These days, it feels like dumb and dumber — or annoying and even more aggravating — so I stopped. I’ll drop around to see if something grabs me and it would be great if WordPress put an editor on it and made it live again.

To all the friends I’ve made, I follow you. Hopefully, you follow me. We don’t need the daily downer to keep in touch. If you are interested, you’ll keep in touch. See you around!


“Americans. They think everybody is snowflake. Only one snowflake. Only one you. But in Korea we think like snowball. Everybody snowball.” Yun-ji packed an imaginary snowball in her hands, then lifted it, palms up, as if offering Billie a present. “You see? Snowball.”

Both of them looked at Yun-ji’s hands holding nothing.

“Snowball,” Yun-ji repeated, then looked at Billie, at her unhappy mouth, at her face that looked like it had been bleached, and she pictured that soldier sitting in the tank, listening to head phones, maybe reading a Rolling Stone magazine, then the call coming in over the radio, the hurried attempts to think of an excuse, some reason why he didn’t see two fourteen-year-old girls walking down a deserted country road in South Korea.

“Never mind,” Yun-ji said and dropped her hands.


There are a lot of levels to this book. It’s a book about cultures and differences, but it’s also a book about the similarities that underlay human societies. In the end, our humanity trumps our differences and enables us to reach out to those who seem at first unreachable.

It’s about women and men, their relationships, their failure to communicate. The endless misunderstandings arising from these failed efforts — or failed lack of effort. It’s also about the assumptions we make based on appearance and how terribly wrong are the deductions we make based on what we think we see. And how we use bad information to make our choices.  And finally, the pain that results from choices — even when the choices are the best available.

The story takes place in South Korea. Billie, a young American woman, is in the country to teach English to grade school children. She has come there with her friend, lover and partner and shortly realizes she is pregnant. It’s as wrong a time in her life to have a baby as there possibly could be and probably the worst possible place she could be — far away from her home and isolated by distance and culture. The story is told in the first person by Billie as well as two other first person narrators, both south Korean.  Yun-ji is a young woman approximately the same age as Billie who also becomes pregnant and a man named Moon who is divorced and suffering through a painful separation from his son.

All the characters deal with problems springing from damaged relationships and miscommunication, misunderstanding, problems with parenting, pregnancy and abortion. Despite cultural differences, in the end the pain is very personal — and remarkable similar — for each.  There are no simple, happy answers.

It’s well-written and held my interest from start to finish. Whether or not the book will resonate for you may depend on your age and stage in life’s journey. For me,  it was a trip back in time to the bad old days before Roe Vs. Wade made abortion a viable choice. Of course, one of the issues made very clear in the book is that the legality of abortion doesn’t make it less of a gut-wrenching, life-altering decision. Anyone who thinks abortion is the easy way out should read this. Whatever else it is, it’s not easy.

It’s a good book. Strongly written, presenting highly controversial issues in a deeply human context.

The Korean Word for Butterfly is available in paper back and Kindle.