Wednesday, October 31, 2012

October 31: Halloween Preparations, Makeup, Chocolate Blessings

My daughter's pumpkin
I am nearing the time that my night of freezing Halloween frolic begins.  In a few hours, I will be elbow-deep in Halloween preparations.  My first duty will be to apply my daughter's makeup.  She is trick-or-treating as the character Sally from A Nightmare Before Christmas.  My daughter found a video on the Internet of a girl doing Sally's makeup, and she has been obsessed ever since.  I practiced doing the makeup on Monday night.  It was an abysmal failure, but I did learn what not to do.  This afternoon will be my second and last chance to get it right.  Funny thing is, the girl who does it in the video makes it look so freakin' easy.  It sort of ticks me off.

Again, since this is Worry Wednesday, I am allowed to say that I am not looking forward to tromping through the cold and snow tonight.  Here is my prediction:  my son will last about one block, and my daughter will be complaining within five minutes.  But, dammit, it's Halloween, and there is free chocolate to be had.  If I spend forty or fifty minutes painting my daughter's face, she will be going door-to-door, even if Hurricane Sandy sends a tidal wave our way.  There will be no excuses.

Tomorrow is Blessing Thursday.  I hope to be able to post a picture of my kids' Halloween bounty, and my percentage of their Halloween bounty.  I'm a little picky, however.  I don't like Smarties or Tootsie Rolls or Mary Janes.  No.  I always felt a little ripped off when I ended up on Halloween with that ilk of candy when I was a kid.

No, no.  The Bank of Saint Marty only accepts chocolate blessings as payment.  Milk chocolate and caramel and nougat.  Without nuts, preferably.  Coconut, absolutely forbidden.

October 31: Happy Halloween, Facetious Snowball, Worry Wednesday

My son's pumpkin
For, the people who were shovelling away on the house-tops were jovial and full of glee; calling out to one another from the parapets, and now and then exchanging a facetious snowball--better-natured missile far than many a wordy jest--laughing heartily if it went right and not less heartily if it went wrong...

Yes, I am writing about snow this Halloween morning.  That's the reason I chose the above passage from A Christmas Carol:  it's about snow.  I woke to a couple inches of snow on the ground and my car.  Thanks to Hurricane Sandy, it will be a white Halloween in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

I have nothing against snow.  If I did, I would not live in the place I live.  I would live somewhere warmer and less cold and white.  Like Grand Rapids or Kalamazoo.  No, I like this kind of weather, when it comes after October 31st (preferably after Thanksgiving).  However, since my daughter was born close to twelve years ago and I joined the ranks of trick-or-treating parents, I have frozen my candy corn off every Halloween.  It never fails.

Thus, my Worry Wednesday is about cold, heavy, wet, white precipitation.  The precipitation of which we dare not speak.  It is going to be a miserable night for candy begging.  We will make the neighborhood rounds, whether rain or sleet or snow.  Nothing will keep my children from their appointed duties of collecting as much free candy as possible for me...I mean, for themselves.  I have explained the Daddy tax to my daughter.  That's the portion of Halloween candy that fathers are entitled to collect on November 1.  In past years, that tax has been 20%.  This year, due to the economic volatility in Greece, the Daddy tax has been raised to 22.5%.  I haven't broken that news to either of my children yet.  It's the least they can do, considering the cold work ahead of me this evening.

I have other worries this All Hallow's Eve Wednesday.  The presidential election.  The devastation on the East Coast caused by Hurricane Sandy.  The Milky Ways I bought for the trick-or-treaters tonight (I don't want to surrender my Milky Ways to the grubby little goblins).  These are important issues, as well.

But Saint Marty's biggest worry is that stuff he shovelled off his windshield a couple of hours ago.  That stuff is going to make Saint Marty's evening pretty miserable.  As Tiny Tim says, "More snow?!  Jesus!"

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

October 30: Wife's Birthday, Wednesday Worries

Today is my wife's birthday.  After work, we are meeting at a restaurant for dinner.  It's not going to be anything expensive or elaborate, but, considering how often we go out for dinner, it will be special.  Thus, I need to publicly wish my beloved a "Happy Birthday."

Tomorrow is Worry Wednesday according to my new blog schedule.  That means it is the one day of the week where I get to voice my complaints and concerns unabashedly.  I usually have a laundry list of gripes, aches, pains, and worries.  I just have to narrow it down to one specific issue.  I think I already have an idea of what I'm going to discuss.  It has to do with Halloween and the weather and my daughter's makeup.  That's what we call in the blog biz a "tease."  You'll have to tune in tomorrow morning for the full scoop.

Just got back from teaching my film class a couple hours ago.  It was freezing cold and windy.  Actually, it was more than windy.  It was more than brisk or blustery.  It was gusty verging on stormy.  It is the remnants of Hurricane Sandy, which destroyed the East Coast last night.  I think Sandy's little tail is whipping around and catching the Upper Peninsula of Michigan a little bit.  I'm hoping the wind dies down by tomorrow evening, or there's going to be a lot of candy corn and Snickers bars blowing around.

Saint Marty isn't complaining, though.  He's just voicing a concern.  He'll save the complaining for tomorrow.

Hopefully not tomorrow night...

October 30: At This Time, Rolling Year, All Souls' Day

"At this time of the rolling year," the spectre said, "I suffer most.  Why did I walk through crowds of fellow beings with eyes turned down, and never raise them to that blessed Star which led the Wise Men to a poor abode!  Were there no poor homes to which its light would have conducted me?"

I know I have used this passage before, but on this first episode of "Saint of the Week," it is particularly apt to touch upon Marley's penance as a ghost.  Marley wanders the world, seeing all the suffering and anguish he could have helped alleviate while he was living.  It is a terrible eternal punishment, to be in a constant state of regret and mourning.

On November 2, the Catholic Church celebrates All Souls' Day.  On this day, people on this planet can offer prayers and alms for those who have died who are "being purified in the sufferings of purgatory."  By offering these sacrifices, we can help the Marleys of the afterlife pass through the pearly gates and enter heaven.  Now, whether you believe in Purgatory and punishment or not, most Christian churches at this time celebrate those who have died in the past year.  In Mexico, it's a national holiday.  Dia de los Muertos.  That's the day where everybody dresses like skeletons and makes sugar skulls and goes to visit grandma and grandpa at the cemetery, usually bringing them food and drinks.  It's sort of like Halloween, except the trick-or-treaters are dead.

No matter what tradition you celebrate, the end of October and the first days of November are reserved for remembrance, for reflection on those you have lost.  It can be a solemn time, or it can be a time of celebration.  It depends on the culture and traditions.

So, whether you're eating Milky Ways or sugar skulls, or lighting votive candles, I wish you a peaceful All Souls' Day.

Saint Marty will end with a traditional Catholic prayer for this time:  Eternal rest grant to them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them.  May they rest in peace.  Amen, Marley, amen.

Happy Halloween, Good All Souls' Day, Merry Dios de los Muertos

Monday, October 29, 2012

October 29: Behind-the-Scenes Documentary...

Look out, Oprah
Well, now that I've decided what to write about every morning, I have to decide what to do with my afternoon blog posts.  I know that Oprah did a behind-the-scenes kind of show on her network during her final year in syndication.  It was the highest rated show on the network, from what I understand.  Maybe, in the afternoons, I'll write about my preparations for upcoming posts.

That creates a dilemma for me at the moment, however.  I haven't even thought about what I'm going to write about tomorrow yet.  I've been too busy with the other tasks of my day to even do any prep work for tomorrow's writing.  Tomorrow, I'll be writing about the Saint of the Week.  That means I will take one of the saints whose feast days are celebrated this week and talk about him or her.  That gives me quite a bit to choose from, holy people with names like Narcissus and Benevenuta and Wolfgang.  I'm going to have to do a little research tonight.

Last night, I spent time with my daughter after my wife went to bed.  My daughter was finishing a project for language arts (that's what they call English class in elementary, middle, and high school these days).  She worked until well past eleven o'clock.  She had one melt-down during the evening, but she was quiet and focused most of the time.  I was so proud of her.  And after she was done, she helped me clean up the living room and got her backpack ready for the morning.  My daughter gave me a snapshot last night of what a great young woman she is going to become.

Saint Marty has to do his homework now.

October 29: My Plans, Oprah, "Carol" Dip Monday

OK, so last week I wrote about reinventing Saint Marty.  This morning, when I logged on at 5 a.m., I only had 64 page views.  I need to do something about this situation.  I therefore have decided to impose some structure on my posts.  Each day, I will write about a generalized theme.  I have come up with a tentative schedule.  Think of it as the TV Guide for this blog.  Here goes:

Monday:  Carol Dip.  (This day will change once my year with A Christmas Carol is over.  Perhaps I'll do Bible dips instead.  We'll see.)

Tuesday:  Saint of the Week.  Yes, I am returning to the roots of this blog.  If you look at my earliest posts, they all concern various Catholic saints and how they relate to modern life.  I will be revisiting this feature on Tuesdays.

Wednesday:  Worry Wednesday.  Instead of writing about all my fears and worries all week long, I will pile them on this day.  It's the middle of the work week, so it seems like a good day to fret about things a little bit.

Thursday:  Blessing Thursday.  I will follow up my day of worry with a day of blessings.  I will discuss one thing in my life for which I'm grateful.  Just to balance things out.

Friday:  P.O.E.T.S. Day.  That stands for Piss On Everything Tommorow's Saturday.  On this day, I will unveil a new poem I've written.  I call myself a poet.  Therefore, I should be writing poetry.  This day will keep me writing and experiencing incredible guilt when I don't get something written.  That's for the Catholic boy in me.

Saturday:  Good Reads.  I will discuss books, short stories, authors, poets I like reading.  Think of it as Oprah's Book Club for this blog.

Sunday:  My Favorite Things.  Yes, I'm stealing another page from Oprah.  On Sundays, I will talk about something I love.  Anything goes on this day, from books to movies to foods to vacations to people.

There you have it.  That's what you can expect on this blog in the future.  Of course, this schedule is not Stonehenge.  Nothing is made out of stone here.  I will deviate for special occasions--holidays, birthdays, elections, when something pisses me off.  For example, I will be posting a Halloween special on Wednesday.  I've already got the graphics for it.  And, not to worry, I will still be fulfilling my promise of focusing on Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol for an entire year.  I do not go back on my word.

We'll see how this new schedule works out.  I may be adjusting things.  Even the television networks cancel programs and bring in mid-season replacements.  For now, this is what you can look forward to.

Now for the Carol dip.  My question this morning is simple: 

Is my new blog schedule going to get me named a Blog of Note by the good people who run Blogger?

And the answer from the great Dickens is:

Scrooge, having no better answer ready on the spur of the moment, said, "Bah!" again, and followed it up with "Humbug!"

Well, that's not the answer I was hoping for, but I'll take it.

Saint Marty isn't going to argue with Charles Dickens or Ebenezer Scrooge.

I won't be giving away any cars, folks!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

October 28: Einstein's Brain, Pumpkin Guts, New Cartoon

It has been a long day.  My wife has been to the ER twice this weekend.  On Friday, she had ear infections and a sore throat.  This morning, she woke up with a case of conjunctivitis.  So, while my wife made her second trip to the hospital, I made lunch for our son and daughter.

My daughter got her pointe shoes for ballet this afternoon.  We met her dance teacher at the store, and, after about half an hour of trying on shoe after shoe, my little Cinderella had her glass slippers.  She was so excited that she held her shoes in her lap like a new puppy all the way home.  She even took a picture of herself with them.  She's planning on wearing them to bed tonight.  (Her dance teacher said that was OK.  It will help the shoes mold to her feet.)

Then we picked up two pumpkins to carve tonight.  My daughter picked out a "super" pumpkin and a "medium" pumpkin.  The pumpkin patch was picked pretty clean, but we ended up with some nice squashes.  After dinner, I gutted them and sifted through the innards for seeds.  My son, who usually wants to roll in mud like a pig, wanted nothing to do with pumpkin guts.  He looked like a cast member of The Walking Dead, trying to avoid zombie contamination.

Now, I am at home, and my daughter is doing homework.  She's tired and more than a little cranky.  I'm also watching Nova on PBS.  It's about Einstein's brain.  Pretty gross and fascinating at the same time.  It's the public television version of a Halloween special, I think.  I had no idea that Einstein's brain was removed illegally and chopped into 40 blocks.  The guy who did the autopsy actually took pictures of Einstein's brain after it was removed, before he diced and sliced it.  When he eventually left Princeton, he took the brain with him.  Einstein's brain travelled all over the Midwest of the United States.  When Dr. Igor, the brain thief, died, Einstein's brain was returned to Princeton, where it is kept under lock and key these days.

Yes, I am tired.  Yes, I find pictures of a dissected brain more than a little disgusting.  Yes, I am ready to go to bed.  Yes, I want to go to sleep and not get up for about two or three days.  I wonder if Einstein ever got this tired.  I'm sure he did, but, when Einstein's head hit the pillow, he probably counted prime numbers or light years or abstract algebraic equations.  When I finally go to bed tonight, I will think about Bugs Bunny or Tweety Bird.  I am not Albert Einstein.

Marty is just a tired saint, facing another week of labor, with trick-or-treating thrown in for fun.

Confessions of Saint Marty

October 27: Very Dark, Too Dark, New Cartoon

The room was very dark, too dark to be observed with any accuracy, though Scrooge glanced round it in obedience to a secret impulse, anxious to know what kind of room it was.  A pale light, rising in the outer air, fell straight upon the bed; and on it, plundered and bereft, unwatched, unwept, uncared for, was the body of this man..

Scrooge and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come are in a death chamber.  Scrooge's death chamber, to be specific.  Although Scrooge doesn't want to admit it yet, he knows the body on the bed is himself.  It's a terrifying moment in the novel.  Scrooge is faced with a vision of his end, and it isn't pretty.

Halloween is this Wednesday, and the pumpkins and scarecrows and skeletons are out in full force this weekend.  Tomorrow, I will be carving pumpkins.  I buy two every year, one for my daughter and one for my son.  I held off buying them until this weekend because, last year, I bought and carved the pumpkins too early.  By the time All Hallow's Eve was upon us, the faces on the pumpkins were a little shriveled and sunken.  I didn't want to make the same mistake this year.

So, the only reason I chose the passage above is that it's scary.  Dickens loved ghost stories and anything paranormal.  All of his books are filled with all sorts of creepy, unsavory characters.  Ghost stories were a staple for the Christmas holidays in the Dickens household.  I would bet that, if Halloween had been celebrated in Victorian England, old Chuck would have been known as Father Pumpkin instead of Father Christmas.  In fact, A Christmas Carol might have been A Halloween Carol, and Scrooge might have had a prize pumpkin delivered to the Cratchits instead of a prize turkey.  Since Dickens was single-handedly responsible for the popularizing of many stereotypical Christmas traditions, the world would certainly be a different place if the Inimitable had been into Halloween instead.

But, he wasn't, and so we have Ebenezer Scrooge and Tiny Tim celebrating the yuletide season.

Saint Marty prefers that arrangement.  Let Dickens have Christmas.  Leave Halloween to Poe and Bradbury and Stephen King.

Confessions of Saint Marty

Friday, October 26, 2012

October 26: Time for Bed

It has been a long day.  My house is clean.  My work is done.  I am tired.  I am going to bed in a little while.  I am barely keeping my eyes open right now.

Saint Marty isn't reinventing his blog or his life today.  He's going to reinvent his pillows and bed.

Ready for a little snooze...

October 26: To His Father's Side, Loved the Child, School Visit

He sat very close to his father's side upon his little stool.  Bob held his withered little hand in his, as if he loved the child, and wished to keep him by his side, and dreaded that he might be taken from him.

Bob Cratchit loves Tiny Tim.  One of the most moving moments in A Christmas Carol is the deathbed scene of Tim.  We see Bob sitting by his son's bed, mourning.  When Dickens performed this scene at his public readings, the audience would weep.  There is something about Tiny Tim and Bob that touches a deep chord in the readers' minds and hearts.

I love my son.  I took the day off work to spend time with my son at his school.  I sat in chairs the size of mushrooms.  I ate cheese cubes and English muffin sandwiches.  I read books to a swarm of three- and four-year-olds.  My son took me by the hand and led me around the classroom, proudly showing me everything.  At the end of the morning, as my son was climbing on the bus, he looked at me and said, "You come to school tomorrow?"  "Tomorrow" for my son could mean in the afternoon, in a day, in a week, in a month, or in a year.  "Tomorrow" is the future, and my son wanted me to go to school with him tomorrow.

It made me feel great to know my son was excited to be with me, wanted to be with me.  He didn't want to let go of my hand.

And Saint Marty didn't want to let go of his son's hand.

My Tiny Tim

Thursday, October 25, 2012

October 25: By the Pricking of My Thumbs...

Something wicked this way comes...
Tonight, my book club meets to discuss Shadow Show.  It is a perfect night to commune with Ray Bradbury, rain and fog and thunder.  In some ways, I feel like I've been peaking into the tents of Mr. Dark's carnival, seeing sea monsters and ghosts and disembodied heads.  I am a child again, sneaking into the adult section of the library to peer into books about Lon Chaney and Boris Karloff.  Yes, Frankenstein and Dracula are coming to dinner tonight at my house.

To accompany these guests, we will have soup and warm bread and rolls.  I can't think of a better way to spend a late October evening.  While the fallen maple leaves become slick and cold outside, inside we will huddle together and whisper about the secrets of the Dark carnival.  The pumpkins are grinning on front porches.  Orange lights festoon windows.  And, on the television, screams and howls.

All Hallow's Eve is upon us.  Halloween time.  Bradbury time.

Saint Marty is ready to jump on the carousel.

October 25: Pears and Apples, Squab, Hunger

...There were pears and apples, clustered high in blooming pyramids; there were bunches of grapes, made, in the shop-keeper's benevolence, to dangle from conspicuous hooks, that people's mouths might water gratis as they passed; there were piles of filberts, mossy and brown, recalling, in their fragrance, ancient walks among the woods, and pleasant shufflings ankle deep through withered-leaves; there were Norfolk Biffins, squab, and swarthy, setting off the yellow of the oranges and lemons, and, in the great compactness of their juicy persons, urgently entreating and beseeching to be carried home in paper bags and eaten after dinner...

The passage above is just a small portion of a much larger paragraph focused on food.  In the Ghost of Christmas Present stave, Dickens includes so much description of edibles that it reads like a Victorian issue of Gourmet magazine.  Squab and oranges and pears and mutton.  Charles Dickens had a thing about food.  It might have had something to do with his poverty-stricken childhood, but there's no getting around the fact that he associated food with Christmas happiness.

I am hungry this morning.  That is the only reason I chose this passage.  I want to eat.  A lot.  I know I'm hungry when I read Dickens' description of silver fish and think, "I wonder how that would taste with risotto?"  I've had this hunger all week long.  Yesterday, I ate all day long.  Literally.  Crackers and cheese and chocolate and fruit bars.  If someone had set a plate of sauerkraut in front of me, I would have feasted on it.  And I hate sauerkraut.

I don't think I have a tapeworm.  I'm not suffering from consumption.  It's simply that time in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan when the weather gets colder and the residents feel the urge to pack on some pounds to insulate themselves for the upcoming winter.  Like squirrels or bears, except we don't hibernate.

I am determined not to eat as much today.  My book club meets tonight at my house, so I will try to conserve my eating for our little get-together.  We are all making various soups for this evening.  My wife is making cheesy broccoli.  Someone else is making a shrimp bisque.  We're having pumpkin soup and roasted red pepper soup.  I am more excited about the soups than the discussion.  But, again, I'm really hungry.

I've noticed that many of the recent Blogs of Note center around food or clothing or crafts.  Maybe I'll take some pictures of the soups tonight and then post them tomorrow morning.  That might get me some kind of recognition.  Maybe I will be named the Best Soup Blog.  Or the Best Pictures-of-Food Blog.  Or the Best I'm-Just-Trying-to-Be-Named-Blog-of-Note Blog.

Or maybe Saint Marty will be too busy cramming food in his mouth to remember to take a picture.

Anyone want a Norfolk Biffin?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

October 24: Checking In

Sometimes, after a busy morning and afternoon of work, I don't have a whole lot to give in my second post of the day.  I'm simply punching the time clock.  Checking in.  I write something to say I'm still here.  I survived another day.  I have not succumbed to any disease or accident or affliction.  I am alive.

That's the best I can do today.  I have been busy, but I have not accomplished a whole lot.  I still have a class to teach, another viewing of Psycho.  Today, we're going to talk about the conventions of the horror film genre.  I'm going to see how much these kids know about horror, aside from the fact that they like to see people killed in unique and bloody ways.

I have been thinking about the content of this blog a lot.  Actually, I've been thinking about what I haven't been including in this blog.  I used to include more original poetry.  I used to talk more about literature and spiritual issues.  Recently, I have been wrapped up in my own problems and issues, and those subjects have dominated my posts.  I think I need to start working on my poetry again.  And I think I have to start some more regular weekly features, like the saint of the day.  I need to give myself some structure.  I figure that, if it works for my four-year-old son, it will work for me.

So, expect to see some new things on Saint Marty in the upcoming weeks.  Expect to see some old things returning.

Saint Marty needs to reinvent himself a little bit.  He's getting bored.

This idiot needs some help

October 24: Alone, Quite Alone, Where Have All the Readers Gone?

"Mr. Scrooge it was.  I passed his office window; and as it was not shut up, and he had a candle inside, I could scarcely help seeing him.  His partner lies upon the point of death, I hear; and there he sat alone.  Quite alone in the world, I do believe."

This statement is made by the husband of Belle, Scrooge's former fiance.  He has just seen Scrooge toiling away in his office while Marley is dying at home.  Of course, Scrooge is alone.  By this point in his life, Scrooge has pushed away everyone who ever loved him.  He is by himself, depends only on his own resources for security and so-called happiness.  As Belle's husband says, Scrooge is alone, quite alone in the world.

The reason I chose this little passage is that I have noticed an alarming trend with this blog.  My readership is down.  For the past four or five months, I have been averaging over 10.000 hits a month.  This month, I will be lucky if I even approach that number.  I'm not sure what the cause of this decline is.  Perhaps I have written something offensive.  Perhaps my disciples are getting tired of my constant need for acceptance and appreciation.  Perhaps I have turned people off with my political humor.  (For the record, my friends are Republicans and Democrats, and we exchange good-natured insults all day long.)  Perhaps it has nothing to do with me and everything to do with the change of seasons or weather or maybe the full moon.

Whatever the reason, I am feeling alone, quite alone in the world, and I don't like it.  Saint Marty will never be named a Blog of Note if this decline in readership continues.  So, I am trying to figure out how to stem the tide, so to speak.  I will do practically anything for my audience.  I will even post a picture of myself in a compromising position.  (Yes, I will wear a Mitt Romney tee-shirt, if I have to.  I will even go that far.)  Just let me know what I can do, or not do, to get your vote.

This country needs Saint Marty.

I am Saint Marty, and I approved  this message.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

October 23: Heavy Sighing

I am a sigher.  Actually, I am a major sigher.

People who know me tend to be very sensitive to my sighs.  My coworkers recognize my sighs as signs of frustration or anger.  I sigh instead of saying something sarcastic that may hurt somebody's feelings.  However, since I've been working with most of these people for over ten years, they are able to interpret my sighs for what they really are:  nonverbal ways of saying, "Kiss my ass" or "This is a pain in the ass."

I come from a family of sighers.  My sister, with whom I interact on a daily basis, has a sigh that could stop a charging rhino in its tracks.  When she employs her sigh on me, I feel myself suddenly become a six year old again.  I know I shouldn't let her sighs have that kind of power over me, but, after forty-plus years of hearing them, I am still not immune.

Sometimes, though, a sigh is simply a way of relieving stress.  It's like taking a deep breath after receiving bad news.  Inhale--this really sucks--exhale--OK, let's deal with it.  That's the kind of sighing I've been doing at work recently.  As I move from one pile of work to another, I sigh.  It's not that I think I'm surrounded by idiots.  It's not that I resent the task (alright, it might be a little of that).  It's just my way of saying, "Time to conquer another mind-numbing task," without actually saying the words "conquer" or "mind" or "numbing."

So if you run into Saint Marty these days, and you hear him breathe out loudly, don't be offended.  Sometimes a sigh is just a sigh.

October 23: So Resolute, Christmas Humour To the Last

"I am sorry, with all my heart, to find you so resolute.  We have never had any quarrel, to which I have been a party.  But I have made the trial in homage to Christmas, and I'll keep my Christmas humour to the last.  So A Merry Christmas, uncle!"

You gotta love Fred, Scrooge's nephew.  He never lets anything get him down, even his uncle's insults and barbs.  Fred simply looks at Scrooge and says, "Yeah, well, Merry Christmas, you old bastard."  (I'm paraphrasing loosely here.)  Fred remains the embodiment of good Christmas cheer, the antithesis of Ebenezer Scrooge.

As you know, I have been struggling with my Scrooge-ness this past week.  I have been making a concerted effort to remain positive in my dealings with this crappy world.  (Whoops, a little slip there.  Sorry.)  For the most part, I have been successful.  I have embraced my inner Fred.  But it's so much easier to be Ebenezer, and more fun at times.

Sit, Ubu, sit...
For instance, I could make some pretty disparaging comments about the fact that NBC released a poll yesterday saying that the presidential race is virtually tied, 47% Obama to 47% Romney.  (That means almost half of Americans polled think it's OK to drive a thousand miles with your pet dog strapped to the roof of your car in a kennel.  Yes, I went there.)  But I'm not going to do that.  I'm Fred.

I could also say something fairly negative about Paul Ryan's personal best marathon time, which he got wrong by almost two hours.  I won't.  It was an honest mistake.  I'm Fred.

I could include one of my favorite Mitt Romney quotes:  "I'm not familiar precisely with what I said, but I'll stand by what I said, whatever it was."  But I'm not going to do that.  And I'll stand by what I say.  I'm Fred.

It's not easy being eternally positive, but it is rewarding.  Just ask Fred.

Saint Marty is the eternal optimist.

Monday, October 22, 2012

October 22: "Psycho" and Shadows

I have been doing two things in the last couple of days.  I have been watching Psycho in preparation for showing it to my Intro to Film classes.  And I have been reading that Ray Bradbury tribute collection of short stories, Shadow Show.  Well, these two tasks have put me in a definite Halloween frame of mind.  Serial killers and ghosts and monsters and whatnot.  It's dark material, but I don't mind it.  As a kid, I subscribed to a film magazine titled Fangoria that revelled in showing full color pictures of the goriest scenes from current horror flicks.  I waited each month for this magazine to show up in my mailbox.

Yes, I was a slightly creepy kid.  However, my reading of Fangoria, and my knowledge of how movie makeup and effects work, made me immune to the scary parts of horror films.  I was also a huge fan of Stephen King novels as a teenager, as well.  My proclivity for gore and monsters and zombies drew me to darker, more serious films and books as an adult.  For example, when I teach Good Books at the university, there is one novel I have used more than any other.  It's a Christmas story by Oscar Hijuelos titled Mr. Ives' Christmas.  It's about a man whose son is gunned down on the street outside a church on Christmas Eve.  It's full of violence and ghosts and death and redemption.  It's one of my favorite novels of all time.

Perhaps I'm a slightly creepy adult, as well.  I will say that, as a parent, I'm appalled by some of the gornography released to theaters these days.  Saw and Hostel and the like.  However, every once in a while at night, I just want to kick back and watch an army of zombies eat some brains.  Thank God for The Walking Dead.

Saint Marty is looking forward to spending some time with Norman Bates this week.

I actually own two copies of this issue

October 22: On the Limn of Possibility, "Carol" Dip

I've always liked the word "limn."  It gives me a sense of comfort, and I don't know why.  It's a verb, meaning, "to represent in drawing or painting" or "to portray in words; describe."  Because it is so close to the word "limb," many people get the two confused.  I, personally, think there should be a noun version of "limn," so that, if you are on the limn of something, you are on the edge of it.  You are on the line that marks the outer most reaches of the object or person or place or space.  So, if I say to you some time, "That's on the limn of possibility," that means it is within the realm of possibility.  It could happen.

This morning, I would like to think of things on the limn of possibility.  Some people may call them dreams or pipe dreams or wishes or fantasies.  However, I prefer to exist on the limn, because that's where the interesting things of the world happen.

Let me give you a few examples.  It was on the limn of possibility that peasant parents in China might give birth to a Nobel Prize winning writer.  Mo Yan won the Nobel this year.  It was also on the limn of possibility that a young, African American man from Hawaii might grow up to be President of the United States.  President Obama was elected in 2008.  Finally, it was on the limn of possibility that the Son of God might be born to an unwed mother in a barn in an obscure little village.  Over two thousand years ago, you know what happened.

Thus, I will give you a few things on the limn of possibility that give me a little happiness.

It is on the limn of possibility that I will be hired by the university as a tenure-track professor of poetry.  (One of my favorite things on the limn.)

It is on the limn of possibility that I will win the Nobel Prize in Literature.  (Hey, if Mo Yan or Pearl S. Buck or Dario Fo can win, so can I.)

It is on the limn of possibility that I will write a bestselling memoir.  (Everybody wants to read about a middle-aged poet living in the middle of Michigan's Upper Peninsula.  In the movie adaptation, I will be played by George Clooney or Brad Pitt.)

It is on the limn of possibility that I will have pizza for lunch.  (Actually, this one is more than on the limn.  I have two pieces of pizza in the fridge right now.  I just wanted to throw in one thing that would come true today, even if it does involve three-day-old pepperoni from Little Caesar's.)

It is on the limn of possibility that Saint Marty will be named a Blog of Note.  (I haven't harped on this one for quite some time, so I thought I'd throw it in.)

It is on the limn of possibility that I will lose 40 pounds and be named one of People Magazine's 100 sexiest people.  (I can see the title to my photo already:  "Sexiest Blogger" or "Sexiest Poet" or "Sexiest Nobel Prize Winner."  Hey, it's always possible.)

OK, I have lifted my spirits with this little list of things on the limn.  Now, it is time for a Carol dip.  I will focus on something else within the limn of possibility:

Will Barack Obama be reelected as President of the United States?

And the answer from the great Charles Dickens is:

Sort of looks like Mitt, doesn't it?
Well, my finger landed on a picture of Scrooge before the knocker on his front door.  The subtitle to the illustration is this:  The ghostly knocker which presages a terrifying Christmas Eve for Ebenezer Scrooge.

I don't really like that answer.  It sort of hints at something terrifying to come (i.e., the election of Mitt Romney).

Saint Marty prefers to exist on the limn today:  President Obama will dominate the last debate this evening and soundly defeat Mr. Romney come November.  That's a limn Saint Marty can live with.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

October 21: Pumpkins and End of Weekend and New Cartoon

Well, since my pumpkin patch yielded only one, small, green pumpkin (which a rabbit gnawed on and killed), I will have to go pumpkin shopping soon.  I don't mind buying squash for All Hallow's Eve, but I was really hoping to save some money with those pumpkin plants in my backyard.  Of course, I spent $30 on top soil and God knows how much money on water.  For my third attempt at growing pumpkins, I guess I should be happy I actually had something to show for all my effort this year.  Next year, I will be investing in some major fertilizer and rabbit traps.

There is really only one thing wrong with weekends:  they come to an end way too quickly.  Tomorrow, another five days of toil begins.  This week, I have a couple of things to look forward to.  Tomorrow morning, I'm having breakfast with a friend.  She's bringing me a birthday present, and she's a great baker.  I'm looking for some homemade cinnamon rolls.  On Thursday evening, my book club meets at my house.  We're reading a tribute collection of stories written for Ray Bradbury titled Shadow Show.  If you're a fan of Bradbury, or short fiction, I highly recommend it.  It includes writers like Margaret Atwood, Dave Eggers, Harlan Ellison, Neil Gaiman, and Alice Hoffman.  It's like a Who's Who of North American fiction.

So, still trying to remain positive, I have some really good events coming up this week.  If I add some caffeine and a bag of Scoop Fritos, it's going to be an awesome seven days.

Saint Marty, keeping it real.

Confessions of Saint Marty

Saturday, October 20, 2012

October 20: Ill Whims, Consequence, New Cartoon

"Oh, I have!" said Scrooge's nephew.  "I am sorry for him; I couldn't be angry with him if I tried.  Who suffers by his ill whims?  Himself, always.  Here, he takes it into his head to dislike us, and he won't come and dine with us.  What's the consequence!  He don't lose much of a dinner--"

Scrooge's nephew is reflecting on Scrooge's ill whims about Christmas with the guests at his Christmas party.  Fred is never angry or bitter with his uncle.  The primary emotion Fred feels toward Scrooge is pity and compassion.  Fred recognizes that Scrooge is an unhappy man.  The source of Scrooge's Christmas hostility is unknown to Fred, but Fred knows what the results are:  isolation, alienation, loneliness.

If you know someone who suffers from depression or anxiety, you're in much the same position as Fred is in.  You're powerless to do anything to help the sufferer.  It's frustrating.  I have been lucky with my wife for some time now.  She has been doing really well with her bipolar.  Her medications are working well, and, while she does experience lower periods every once in a while, for the most part, she is great.

I have been Fred before, however.  I have banged my head against the wall of mental illness.  It's not a fun exercise.  All I ended up with was a headache and a heartache.  Until my wife recognized her need for help, she couldn't be helped.  I had to sit back and watch her self-destruct.  Fred must do the same thing:  watch his uncle suffer.  It's not an easy thing to do.  Until Scrooge recognizes his need for help, he'll never get better.  (Yes, I am saying that Scrooge suffers from mental illness.  He is one of the most miserable characters I have ever encountered in literature.)

So, the message of my post today is for readers who have mentally ill loved ones:  know that you are not alone.  Know that you are not a failure.  Know that all you can offer your loved one is compassion and support.  Know that mental illness is a horrible disease.  But know also that, after a long and dark night, there is a bright and happy Christmas morning waiting.

Saint Marty is praying for you.

Confessions of Saint Marty

Friday, October 19, 2012

October 19: Birthday Party End of Day

I am sitting on my couch at the end of a birthday party, at the end of cleaning up the cake crumbs and pizza crusts.  I'm a little beat, but feeling content.  It was a good night.  The kids had a good time, and visiting with our family was relaxing.  We don't get together very often, except for birthdays and holidays.  Probably the next time we will all see each other is on Thanksgiving.  Turkey and pecan pie.  We joke that Thanksgiving isn't Thanksgiving (or Christmas isn't Christmas) until my wife's younger sister stands up in the middle of the living room and says, "I hate this family!" and runs away.  (I witnessed this scene a few times in the past.)

We are a more civil crew now, nicer to each other.  We've reached that time in our lives when a nap sounds more exciting than a night at a bar or restaurant (unless it's Red Lobster and somebody else is paying).  We like each other, despite all our quirks and insanity.  We like each other, because of all our quirks and insanity.  We know the cracks and fissures in each other's lives, and we fill those absent places with love.

I know that sounds corny, but I'm feeling pretty blessed tonight, at the end of a long week of not feeling blessed.  That's very comforting.

Saint Marty is ready for bed, and he'll sleep better tonight than he has for quite a while.
I love my crazy family

October 19: Captive, Bound, and Double-Ironed

I don't want to end up like this guy
"Oh! captive, bound, and double-ironed," cried the phantom, "not to know, that ages of incessant labour, by immortal creatures, for this earth must pass into eternity before the good of which it is susceptible is all developed.  Not to know that any Christian spirit working kindly in its little sphere, whatever it may be, will find its mortal life too short for its vast means of usefulness.  Not to know that no space of regret can make amends to one life's opportunity misused!  Yet such was I!  Oh! such was I!"

A pretty depressing little soliloquy from Marley's ghost.  He's touching upon something that is universal for every person on this planet--life's lost opportunities.  In particular, he's talking about opportunities of charity and compassion we miss every day of our lives.  Marley (and Dickens) laments all of those overlooked moments when we could be better people.

This past week, I have been totally preoccupied with my problems.  Actually, "preoccupied" is too tame a word.  I have been obsessed with my problems.  "Obsessed" indicates the unhealthy level of my preoccupation a little more accurately.  And I've been feeling sorry for myself, which is totally unattractive.  This morning, I want to tell you about someone I got to know last weekend.

I spent a good deal of time talking to the mother of a dancer at the dance convention.  "Candie" is a girl who takes dance classes with my daughter.  Candie is home-schooled.  She's sweet and quiet and unassuming, always supportive of the other people in class.  She brings treat bags for all the students at the dance studio at Halloween and Christmas (there are well over 100 students at the studio).  Candie is just plain nice.

I always assumed Candie was home schooled for religious reasons.  Well, Candie's mom started talking to me last Saturday about Candie's health issues.  Candie suffers from severe allergies (allergies that have almost killed her on several occasions).  Candie can only eat about five different foods, and her mom said, "And she's allergic to those, too, but not as much."  Her mom paused for a moment and then said, "We don't know what we're going to do if she becomes really allergic to those foods."  At one point during our conversation, Candie came over to get a drink of water.  I noticed red welts on her calves.  I think her mom said she's allergic to her own sweat.

At the hotel, Candie couldn't go to the water park.  She's allergic to the chemicals.  She couldn't go to any restaurants for obvious reasons.  Her mom had to rent a room with a full kitchen so she could prepare Candie's meals.  Candie couldn't go to the amusement park because of the possibility of exposure to allergens, as well.

As I sat there, talking with Candie's mom, I realized how blessed I am.  My problems really aren't that big.  I have two healthy, happy kids.  I may have some struggles with bills and jobs, but my life is good.  My preoccupations are trivial.  Unimportant.  And Candie and her mom are two of the most wonderful, positive people I have ever met.

Saint Marty has to give himself a reality check every once in a while.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

October 18: Trying to Remain Positive

Once more, I find myself in a little bit of a funk this afternoon.  I could attribute my mood to the fact that my blood sugar is currently 38.  For those people unfamiliar with diabetes or blood sugar levels, I will tell you that normal glucose levels are between 70 and 110.  So, 38 is more than a little low.

Don't worry, I have already drank apple and cranberry juices.  I have also eaten a blueberry Nutri Grain bar.  I will be fine.  However, as I've explained in previous posts, low blood sugars alter brain chemistry quite a bit.  For me, I tend to become very depressed, overwhelmed even.  Again, it's all about brain chemistry.  I'm probably the only person who can actually combat depression with food.  In a little while, this black cloud that is hanging over me will lift, and I will be much better.  At the moment, I can't quite get there yet, although I am doing much better.

I'm going to add a few more blessings this evening, like I did this morning.  It may help diminish the darkness a little.

Blessings.  Let's see.

How about my cousin, Grant, who is an internationally famous chef and has won about 5 million James Beard Awards?  Nope, that just makes me angry and jealous.

How about the Nobel Prize in Literature?  Nope.  Two words:  Mo Yan.  Jealousy again.

How about chocolate of any kind?  Nope.  I don't have any with me.

How about my trip to the Wisconsin Dells?  Nope.  That just reminds me that I don't have another vacation until January.

How about I just give up and wait for the sugar to kick in?

Saint Marty thinks that's a damn fine idea.

October 18: Heaven, and the Christmas Time

"...Heaven, and the Christmas Time be praised for this!..."

Scrooge says this little ejaculation of praise on Christmas morning, right after the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come returns him to his the "real" world.  Scrooge is grateful to be alive.  He is grateful for the cold, snowy morning.  He is grateful for his dark, dusty apartment.  He is grateful for everything in his life.

Last night, I found myself in a very dark place.  I was contemplating a few issues in my life, and I just couldn't shake off the negative thoughts.  Therefore, I have decided this morning to focus on the blessings in my life.  I know I have done this exercise several times already on this blog.  However, I think it's a good thing to repeat.

Thus, on to the blessings:

My son, who is funny and healthy and full of energy.  (Maybe a little too full of energy, but that's OK.)

My daughter, who is smart and beautiful and graceful as a swan.

My wife, who is smart and beautiful and employed.  (That's a double blessing.)

My house, which keeps my family warm and comfortable.

My car, which runs and gets me to work.

My job in the medical office, where I'm surrounded by people I love.

My job at the university, where I get to talk about things that I love.

Cheetos, because I love them.

Diet Mountain Dew, because I love it.

My friends, who bring me so much joy.

My family, because they're crazy and loving.

My wife's family, because they're crazy and loving.

My health, which is good.

Poetry, which makes me see beauty in everything.

God, Who is the source of all of the above.

Saint Marty's cup overflows.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

October 17: Topless Photos of Kate Middleton

My page views are down this month, so I've decided to write a post that mentions some of the things you won't see on this blog.

You won't see any topless photos of Kate Middleton, since I don't want to be sued by the royal family.  In addition, I have no pictures of Prince Harry's little harry either.

I will not talk about last night's presidential debate, since I already did that this morning.  As a recap, a vote for Mitt Romney is a vote for his bank account.

I will not be posting any racy pictures of Justin Bieber or Selena Gomez.  There will be no mentions of Robert Pattinson or his cheating girlfriend.

I will not be posting any nude pictures of myself.  It wouldn't be pretty and would probably damage my chances for next year's Nobel Prize in Literature, not to mention hurting my chances of running for the presidency in 2016.

There will be no naked pictures of Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, or Hulk Hogan.  No sex tapes, either.

Sorry, this post is about absolutely nothing that anybody wants to read or look at.  All this post is supposed to accomplish is gaining me some more page views.

Saint Marty ain't no dummy.

This is as racy as it's going to get

October 17: Do Go On, Ridiculous Fellow, Presidential Debate

"Do go on, Fred," said Scrooge's niece, clapping her hands.  "He never finishes what he begins to say!  He is such a ridiculous fellow!"

Scrooge's niece is referring to her husband, Fred, in the above piece of dialogue.  She could have been reviewing the U. S. presidential debate last night.

Now, anybody who reads this blog consistently knows that I am not a big fan of Republicans.  I can't afford to be.  Thus, take my comments and jokes here with a grain of salt, piece of lime, and some tequila.

That being said, I can't see how any viewer of the debate last night could seriously consider Mitt Romney as a viable candidate for President of the United States.  Despite what he says about being a businessperson his whole life, Romney is a political animal.  Has been since his birth.  His father was governor of Michigan.  Mitt ran for Ted Kennedy's senate seat, served as governor of Massachusetts, and has run twice for President of the United States.  If you're keeping score, that's four political offices good ol' Mitt has campaigned for and/or won.  President Obama served three terms in the Illinois senate, ran for the House of Representatives in 2000 (and lost), got elected to the U.S. Senate in 2004, and got elected President of the United States in 2008.  If you're keeping score, that's four political offices Mr. Obama has campaigned for and/or won.  Mitt is just as much a career politician as President Obama, if not more.  Neither of Mr. Obama's parents held any political office.  Mitt Romney was raised on politics.

OK, that's my rant for this morning.  Mitt Romney is a ridiculous fellow.  If he were honest, he would admit that he is a political creature.  He would say that he's wanted to be President of the United States since he saw the cool limo and airplane that came along with the job.  He wants guys with guns and ear pieces protecting him.  He wants an oval office.

Saint Marty just hopes Mitt Romney has to build his own oval office come November.  He could put it on the top floor of his car elevator.

I'm not stupid, Mr. Career Politician

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

October 16: When Life Gives You Lemons...

We've all heard that old saying about lemons and what you should do with them.

Well, I've got a new take one for my disciples:

When life gives you lemons, sometimes it really sucks.

Yes, I'm not about to add sugar and water and make lemonade with my lemons.  Nope.  Today has sucked on many levels, so even if I made lemonade, it would probably taste like crap anyway.  Thus, my lemons are going to stay lemons.  It's sort of like manure.  Some people see a pile of manure and think, "Fertilizer!  I'll till up the backyard, plant some vegetables or flowers, add some of that manure, and make a beautiful garden."  When I see a pile of manure, I think, "Cow shit."

You'll excuse me if my wisdom for today is a little on the negative side.  I just got back from a vacation, and I am buried in paperwork.  I'm not seeing too much lemonade or gardens this afternoon.

Saint Marty sees lemons and cow shit.

Sometimes a lemon is just a lemon

October 16: Bob's Voice, Strong and Hearty, Meltdown

Bob's voice was tremulous when he told them this, and trembled more when he said that Tiny Tim was growing strong and hearty.

Bob has just voiced his hopes for Tiny Tim, even though he knows, deep in his heart, that Tim's prospects are pretty bleak.  Tiny Tim will not survive to adulthood unless some kind of miracle occurs.  At the time Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol, childhood death was not uncommon in Victorian England.  Hygiene wasn't the greatest, and the plague wasn't yet a distant memory.  Bob's fears are not unfounded for his weak little son.

Last night, after we got home from the Wisconsin Dells, my daughter had a huge meltdown.  I thought it was simply because she was exhausted from the weekend of dancing and late nights.  However, after about 45 minutes of screaming and slamming doors, I discovered the cause of her anxieties.  She kept on saying she was a failure, and I kept on telling her she did really well in her dance classes and her flute practice.  I thought she was worried about a social science test she has to take today.  Then, she finally confessed that she received a "D+" on a science test last week.

The poor little girl had been carrying that around for almost five days, afraid to tell me or my wife, not wanting to "disappoint" us.  By the time I got this information from her, she was sobbing so hard I could barely understand her.

It was one of those parent moments where I didn't know what to say or do to calm her down.  She's told me that science was harder for her this year than last, but she hasn't told me she was struggling so much.  I tried to hold her, get her to stop crying.  I don't even remember exactly what I said.  Probably something like, "It's OK.  I'll help you study.  You'll be OK.  I'll give your teacher a call to see how I can help you out.  I'm not disappointed in you."   And on and on.  You get the idea.

I have never put much pressure on my daughter to perform well in school.  She just always has.  Now, I'm going to call her school to make sure she's not failing one of her subjects.  In some ways, I feel like I've failed her.  I don't understand how I couldn't have recognized her anguish.  She hid it so well.  I think she takes after me.  I tend to suppress my troubles.  It's so much easier than confronting and dealing with them.

Well, I was able to calm her down last night, after a couple of hours.  I helped her study for her social science test.  I got her to feel like the world wasn't coming to an end.  I hope.

Saint Marty thinks his daughter is strong and hearty this morning.

My daughter's cry for help last night

Monday, October 15, 2012

October 15: Happy Anniversary

October 14 was my seventeenth wedding anniversary.  I spent the entire day watching my daughter dance in her dance classes.  The picture below pretty much shows you what I saw all day.  I did give my wife a call in the evening, and we spoke for a little while.  However, this year was the first time we haven't been together on our anniversary.

Saint Marty has some lost ground to make up next weekend with his beloved.

My daughter bustin' a move

October 14: A Picture from Saturday

Something quick about Saturday, October 13.  My daughter had a blast at the dance convention.  And she got a picture with her favorite dancer, Dena Rizzo, the Queen of Hip Hop.  As you can tell by the photo below, my daughter was pretty excited.

Saint Marty apologizes for not having any Charles Dickens for you this weekend, or any new installments of The Confessions of Saint Marty.  Things will return to normal in a day or so.

The Queen of Hip Hop and a princess of Hip Hop

October 14: One More Note About Friday the 12th

Just one last post about our arrival at the Wisconsin Dells on Friday.  After the bed bugs were taken care of, my daughter and I hit the indoor water park at the Kalahari Resort, and we had a great time.  Especially my daughter, as you can tell by the picture below.  She spent a lot of time travelling down the water slides.  She also spent a lot of time surfing.  I, on the other hand, spent a lot of time in a rented cabana, trying to relax after a pretty stressful few hours.

We got back to our new suite of rooms at around 10:30 p.m., Wisconsin time.  It was a long day, and my daughter had to get up at 6:30 in the morning to get to the dance convention by 7:15 a.m. 

Saint Marty did not go surfing.  He only went on one water slide.  He was not a party pooper.  He was a pooped party.

My daughter, hangin' ten at the surf pool

Saturday, October 13, 2012

October 13: Much They Saw, Far They Went, Bed Bugs

Much they saw, and far they went, and many homes they visited, but always with a happy end...

First, I must apologize for not posting yesterday.  Like Scrooge and the Ghost of Christmas Present in the passage above, I was traveling.  I am currently in the Wisconsin Dells for a dance convention for my daughter.

It was a fairly uneventful road trip.  Leisurely and quiet.  However, when we got to the Kalahari Resort, our room wasn't ready for about an hour and a half.  Then, when we got to our room, we discovered that it was infested with bed bugs.  Yes, bed bugs.  So, we waited for another hour in our bug-infested room for the management to deal with the situation.

We ended up being moved to a suite of three rooms with a full kitchen, a whirlpool, three bedrooms, three plasma TVs, and about five queen- to king-sized beds.  Oh, and a fireplace.  There were no bedbugs in these rooms.

It was a long check-in process.  We arrived at the Kalahari at 4 p.m.  We were finally in our new rooms around 7 p.m.  It was not fun.

Saint Marty was not feeling very relaxed.

No bed bugs in this place

Thursday, October 11, 2012

October 11: Losing Once Mo

As most of you are probably aware by now, I did not win the Nobel Prize in Literature this year, despite my four-year-old son's prediction.  That phone call from the Swedish Academy never came this morning.  Instead, I had to watch Peter Englund, the permanent secretary of the organization, walk through those white doors into the great hall and announce that Mo Yan, a Chinese novelist, was the winner of the Prize for 2012.

Whatever.  He grew up poor, the son of farmers.  Whatever.  He lives under the censorship of communist China.  Whatever.  He's only 57 years old, and he's already won the Nobel Prize.  Whatever.  When Peter Englund called to tell Mo Yan that he had won the Nobel, Yan said he was "overjoyed" and "scared."  Whatever.  He made his literary debut in 1981, which means it took him only 30 years to get the attention of the Swedes.  Whatever.  He's the first Nobel laureate from China.  Whatever.

I guess my reaction today is "whatever."  If the Swedish Academy wants to honor a communist, that's fine.  If they want to award another novelist, big deal.  If they want to ignore my immense talent for yet another year, so be it.

Saint Marty is a patient man.  Sort of.

The man who stole my Nobel

October 11: Hour Was Passed, Wisest Resolution, the Announcement

Scrooge lay in this state until the chimes had gone three quarters more, when he remembered, on a sudden, that the Ghost had warned him of a visitation when the bell tolled one.  He resolved to lie awake until the hour was passed; and, considering that he could no mre go to sleep than go to Heaven, this was perhaps the wisest resolution in his power.

So, there Scrooge sits in his bed, waiting for the first of the Christmas Ghosts to appear.  He sits and listens to his clock chime the times.  It's a long wait for the old guy, but he's determined to prove to himself that Marley's visit was simply the result of some bad gruel.

I, myself, am playing the waiting game this morning, along with Scrooge.  You see, this morning, in approximately 36 minutes, the winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature is going to be announced in Stockholm at the Swedish Academy.  I have it from a good source that I will win this year.  (Of course, my good source was my four-year-old son who told me, "Daddy, you win.  Can I play your iPad now?")  Thus, I am sitting here with no less than two other computers plugged into the Nobel Prize site, waiting for the live Webcast from the Swedish Academy to start.  I'm expecting it to commence any moment.  According to the countdown clock, there are less than 29 minutes left until the announcement.

I'm thinking that I will take the rest of the day off work and teaching when I win at 7 a.m.  The media will be outrageous, and my phone will simply ring off the hook.  I won't have time to do anything else but talk to reporters and bask in the admiration and jealousy of other writers.  Sorry Cormac McCarthy and Philip Roth and Alice Munro.  It's my Nobel year.

The live Webcast just booted up, which means that in 20 minutes or so, Peter Englund, the permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, will be calling to congratulate me, and then he will walk through the white doors into the great hall and release my name to the world.  It will be a great day for world literature.

Well, I must go and await my call from Sweden.

Saint Marty will see you on the other side of the Nobel Prize announcement.

I'm waiting for your call, Mr. Englund

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

October 10: Nothing to Say

For this second post of October 10, I have nothing to say.

I have nothing to say about watching Jaws with my film class.  It's a great film, regardless of its popularity.  Nothing can beat Robert Shaw as Quint, telling that story of the U. S. S. Indianapolis.  It's some of the best acting I've ever seen.

I have nothing to say about going to my daughter's chorus concert tonight.  I'm not going to say anything about how difficult it was to get a babysitter, although I had to sell a kidney to secure my sister's services for the evening.

I have nothing to say about how cold it is.  There was snow flying at 4 a.m. as I was driving into work.  It felt like November, not early October.  It doesn't bode well for Halloween, which I fear will be just this side of winter.

I have nothing to say about getting ready for my daughter's dance convention at the Wisconsin Dells.  I'm not going to talk about cleaning out my car or packing my suitcase.  I'm not going to discuss the seven-hour drive or throngs of hyper, tweenaged dancer girls.

Saint Marty simply has nothing to say.  Period.

This says it all...

October 10: Memory of What Is Past, Very Brief Time, Regrets

"You may--the memory of what is past half makes me hope you will--have pain in this.  A very, very brief time, and you will dismiss the recollection of it, gladly, as an unprofitable dream, from which it happened well that you awoke.  May you be happy in the life you have chosen!"

Belle says this to young Ebenezer when she breaks off their engagement.  She wishes him pain in his memory, but she also wishes him happiness in the life of profit and greed he is pursuing.  Belle's statement is a little chilling.  It touches on that shard of regret every person experiences over the choices he/she makes.  Scrooge's choice at this moment in his life sentences him to an existence of loneliness and anger.  He goes through his days bitter and disappointed.

Regrets are something I try not to focus on.  If I focus on what I could have done, I will never focus on what I will do.  Looking backward is a double-edged sword.  On the one hand, you can dwell on moments of joy and success.  On the other hand, like Scrooge above, you can dwell on moments of sadness and loss.  Either way, a person can fall into a mire of self-pity or self-congratulation.  You can get stuck in the past, like some tired dinosaur in a tar pit, watching the glaciers approach.

The university I teach for is currently looking to hire a fiction writer for a tenure-track teaching position.  It's a sweet gig.  Graduate classes to teach.  Full benefits.  Tenure.  It's the golden fleece at the end of every writer's quest.  I have a Master's degree in fiction.  However, I have never published a single short story or essay, unless you count my blog, which (I'm pretty sure) most university search committees won't.  My book is a collection of poetry, and my terminal degree is an MFA in poetry.

The job requirements don't frighten me.  Teaching twelve credits per semester.  Check.  Teaching undergraduate and graduate fiction workshops.  Check.  Commitment to professional/scholarly/creative engagement and service to the Department of English.  Yup.  Knowledge of principles and methods for course development, and instruction for individuals and groups.  Uh-huh.  Ability to assess outcomes.  You betcha.  Ability to teach undergraduate composition and/or literature courses.  Already doing that.  Ability to communicate effectively verbally and in writing.  Check-a-roo.  Working effectively with others in productive ways.  Pretty much.  Ability to manage one's own time and that of others.  Let me at 'em.

The sticking point is the fiction thing.  I've had success with poetry.  I never really pursued publication in fiction.  Right now, I'd be in a better place if I'd gotten my MFA in fiction writing.  And published a novel or story collection instead of poetry.  That's where regret comes into play.  I would love to apply for this job, but I know that there are going to be ten other candidates, each with two novels on their curriculum vitae.  I don't stand a chance in a market glutted by unemployed fiction writers.

Poetry has not really opened a whole lot of doors for me.  One book.  No full-time teaching position.  No tenure.  Seventeen years as a part-time adjunct instructor.  I am a poster child of regrets at this moment.

Saint Marty is stuck in the past, a brontosaurus trying to escape extinction.

I bet this guy has regrets

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

October 9: The Swedish Academy

In the above building, which is the headquarters of the Swedish Academy in Stockholm, on Thursday morning, October 11, at around 6 a.m. EST, Peter Englund, the permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, will enter the great hall of the building, where the international press will be waiting, and announce the winner of the 2012 Nobel Prize in Literature.

For those of my disciples who have been rooting for me, I thank you.  I have a feeling this may be my year.  I know, I know.  I've said it before.  However, I don't care what the critics are saying.  I don't care if a poet won last year.  It is going to be my year.  Come December, I will be attending the Nobel banquet, eating whatever fish dish is being served.  And I will be brushing up on how to say "thank you" in Swedish.  If I have to, I'll just start doing my impersonation of the Swedish Chef from The Muppet Show.

Mark your calendar.  October 11, Saint Marty will be the winner.  Or he'll be a very bitter, angry loser, in which case he will learn to swear in Swedish.

October 9: Home, Home, Home Body

"I have come to bring you home, dear brother!" said the child, clapping her tiny hands, and bending down to laugh.  "To bring you home, home, home!"

I have had one of those days where I wish, when the alarm clock went off this morning, I would have turned it off, rolled over, and gone back to sleep.  All I've wanted to do all day is go home, home, home as Fan says to a young Ebenezer in the above passage.  I'm kicking myself for not stopping at the local gas station this morning and picking up a 52 ounce cup of Coke Zero.  That would have given me a little more fuel for the day.

However, I did not do that, and now I am paying the price.  I'm tired.  I didn't even have time this morning to type my normal post.  It's just been non-stop, tedious work.  I want this day to be o-v-e-r.  I'm not even feeling particularly creative this afternoon.  The extent of my wisdom from Charles Dickens today is this:  Fan was right.  Go home.  Stay home.  Be a home body.

Those are words Saint Marty can live by, especially today.

Couch potato sounds good to me!

Monday, October 8, 2012

October 8: Al Dente Brain

Here is a recipe for an al dente brain:

1.  Take your brain.
2.  Add about 100 medical charts to assemble.
3.  Sprinkle in around 20 phone calls.
4.  Remain at your desk for four hours.
5.  Forget to take a bathroom break until your bladder is ready to explode.
6.  Repeat these steps as necessary.

I am beat, and I'm only half-way through my day.  I still have to put together my lesson plan, and I still have to teach.  And then I am flying solo with parenting duties tonight.  My wife is going to a meeting with some ladies at church.

I am pretty sure if you took my brain and flipped it against the wall, it would stick like a piece of cooked linguine.

Saint Marty is al dente.  Add some Alfredo sauce and a piece of garlic bread, and he would be a main course.

Anybody got some parmesan?

October 8: Northern Lights, Northern Darks, "Carol" Dip Monday

This morning, driving into work at 4:30 a.m., the Northern Lights were brilliant in the sky.  Clouds of green and yellow light streamed across the heavens.  I have seen the aurora borealis before, but it has been quite some time.  As I drove along, I started feeling quite small and insignificant in the face of something of such beauty.  And then I thought, God really is amazing.  And then I thought, you better keep your eyes on the road, dumbshit, or you're going to kill yourself.

Then I remembered my iPad.  I pulled over to the side of the road and took several pictures of the light show.  This is just one sample of what I got:

That's right.  I got twelve pictures of utter blackness.  My Northern Lights are Nothern Darks.  So, if you will, imagine a jagged, dark treeline against a dark sky.  Then, imagine bright fingers of light reaching across the stars and moon, so bright it almost looks like dawn is happening in fast forward.  That's what I saw this morning, and that's what this picture is supposed to capture.  Pretty stunning, I know.

Now that I have sufficiently inspired you with my National Geographic photography skills, I will move on to the business at hand.  It is Monday, and that means it's time for a Carol dip.  My question this morning is inspired by the presidential debates of last Wednesday:

Will Mitt Romney win the presidential election because of his debate performance last week?

And the answer from Chuck Dickens is:

It was not an agreeable idea.  Scrooge shivered, and wiped the perspiration from his brow.

See.  Even a dead Victorian novelist doesn't like Mitt Romney.  I mean, Romney dissed Big Bird.  You can't get much lower than that.

This message has been brought to you by the Saint Marty Committee to reelect Barack Obama.