Thursday, January 29, 2015


Andrew Sullivan, perhaps one of the most prolific bloggers of our time recently announced that after fifteen years he is retiring from this activity. In his latest post, he discussed what he would do next. “I want to read again, slowly, carefully,” he wrote. “I want to absorb a difficult book and walk around in my own thoughts with it for a while. I want to have an idea and let it slowly take shape, rather than be instantly blogged.”

When I read his comments, it reminded me that my postings on “Just Saying . . .” have dwindled more and more each of the last three years. In 2015, I’ve published two posts, twenty in 2014, thirty-one in 2013, more than sixty in 2012, and  a total of four hundred and sixty four times since my blogging activity began in 2008. The impulse to tell  the reason for the decline has been percolating over the last year, and Sullivan’s announcement has moved me past the ‘I’ll do it tomorrow” point to this posting.

First of all, I need to digress and explain my initial venture into blogging.  By 2008, I’d spent nearly six years writing most of the novel “Serenity” but I couldn’t figure out how to end the story.  I was stuck. The common malady is generally called “writer’s block.” It took four years of maintaining the practice of nearly daily blog writing before the block disappeared and I was able to finish the story.  As a humorous and coincidental aside, every time I now type the word “blogging” my Auto-correct changes the word to “bogging,” which neatly depicts the state of my writing and mind when I started blogging, i.e. “bogging” begat “blogging.”

The purpose of my blogging was to help me, a retired senior citizen, develop the practice of consistent daily writing to keep me occupied in a fruitful manner while my golf game, and various and sundry other activities, declined in what might be viewed as in an “age-related” fashion. After completing Serenity, I was able to focus more clearly on another project that, as Mr. Sullivan so aptly characterizes as ”an idea that slowly takes shape," the net result being the near-completion of another novel which is now in the final stages of editing.  As that project is slowly coming to an end, other ideas have “slowly taken shape” and I am now at work on another novel, revising my first book, and writing two screenplays based on Serenity and the new novel.

So, what I am “just saying” is that my blog posting is coming to an end.  Thanks so much for having allowed me to present my thoughts, good or bad, to you this past seven years.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Money Talks!

An extremely interesting statement appears in the New York Times this morning (January 29, 2015) in a story about the Koch brothers 900 million dollar plan to grasp control of state and federal governments in the 1916 elections. The statement “The group’s budget, disclosed by a conference attendee, reflects the rising ambition and expanded reach of the Koch operation, which has sought to distinguish itself from other outside groups by emphasizing the role of donors over consultants and political operatives.” tells all of us and, hopefully, members of the U.S. Supreme Court that money buys results. The 5-4 Citizens United decision five years ago danced around the definition of corruption and the Court reversed its own decisions as well as a legislative history of over 100 years in giving corporations and individuals the unlimited right to donate as much money as they want in exercising their, ahem, first amendment right to participate in our rapidly-evolving oligarchic-hybrid form of democracy. This hybrid has as its motto “Money talks.” This is no equal playing field, folks. The millions of us who are willing and able to contribute fifty or a hundred dollars to a favorite candidate are being left in the literal dust as the Koch-types purchase more and more politicians to advance their own objectives.

Under current law, campaign contributions are illegal if there is an explicit quid pro quo, and legal if there isn’t. But legal campaign contributions can be as bad as bribes in creating obligations, the tit-for-tat being the gateway to bribes. In the current campaign financing system, candidates receive cash and respond by serving donors’ interests. Politicians spend more than half their time talking to their funding sources, seeking money and keeping them happy. We will undoubtedly hear current Republican members of Congress campaign the next election cycle parroting what the Koch brothers want. Statements like “I voted to repeal Obamacare 42 times” will be viewed by the Kochs as an affirmation of their control over these politicians, because the pols really don’t give a damn what or how they do things so long as the money continues to flow. Unlimited spending on these politicians is a poison that has entered the bloodstream of American democracy. This process is a real threat to our democracy. If left unchecked, the country is going to go to “hell in a hand basket.”

Just saying . .  .

Monday, January 19, 2015

News on Serenity

Interview with writer Tom Bleakley, Novel Winner for SERENITY

    Watch the Novel Reading from SERENITY (Chapter 3) from the Writing Festival:
Performed by Alissa DeGrazia
Interview with Writer Tom Bleakley:
Matthew: What is your novel about? 
Tom: Serenity is a legal thriller, a fictionalized version of a real case. The story revolves around an unfaithful husband headed toward divorce who is prescribed a drug notorious for causing the side effect of unremembered bizarre behavior, including homicide. The husband kills his wife., but claims to remember nothing about the incident The book asks, “Who is to blame?” Is it the husband who kills to preserve his fancy life style, or the avaricious drug company that attempts to hide news of the drug’s terrible effects to keep the billions of dollars of sales from crashing? The husband is tried for murder and he claims that the drug caused him to kill. A jury decides his guilt or innocence — or does it?
Matthew: Why should people read this novel?
Tom: The main reason is to inform the public about risks of prescription drugs in a manner that is interesting and intellectually stimulating. While the work can be described as fiction, great care has been taken to present a story line that closely adheres to an ongoing event occurring with a currently marketed drugs. As a reviewing journalist for a Detroit newspaper wrote “Serenity . . . should be used as a framework for major changes in our pharmaceutical industry and it’s government oversight. I think it should be on every concerned U.S. citizen’s Top 10 reading lists.” 
Matthew: How long have you been writing stories? 
Tom: I have been writing in one mode or another since high school
Matthew: What movie have you seen the most in your life?
Tom: “What about Bob?” Anything by Bill Murray. He makes me laugh.
Matthew: What artists would you love to work with? 
Tom: Morgan Freeman, Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper.
Matthew: How many stories have you written? 
Tom: A trial lawyer is, in effect, a story teller. During my legal career, I’ve tried more than seventy major lawsuits against the pharmaceutical industry. If this answer is to be limited to the writing of fiction, I have written eighteen short stores or novels. 
Matthew: Ideally, where would you like to be in 5 years? 
Tom: I love writing and I want to be sitting at my desk writing for three-four hours every day. 
Matthew: Describe your process; do you have a set routine, method for writing? 
Tom: I write early in the morning., generally from 4 A.M. to 8 A.M. I have attempted to write Elmore Leonard-style (without an outline) but find that a carefully developed outline both motivates me and takes me down interesting and, sometimes, unexpected pathways.
Matthew: Apart from writing, what else are you passionate about? 
Tom: My eight grandchildren, music (I play the tuba in several concert bands, trombone, euphonium, piano, guitar and banjo), reading, and a love/hate relationship with the game of golf. I’ve exercised nearly every day for more than sixty years.
Matthew: What influenced you to enter the WILDsound Festival? 
Tom: Putting oneself ‘out there’ to be judged/assessed by others is an excellent way to hold oneself accountable for the quality of writing.
Matthew: Any advice or tips you’d like to pass on to other writers? 
Tom: Develop the habit of writing on a daily basis.