Douglas Arvidson is a past winner of the WICE/Paris Transcontinental International Short Story competition. His short fiction has been published in Paris, Prague, and in literary magazines in the United States and he was recently invited to be a staff writer for the Prague Revue, a cutting-edge, online literary journal ( The novels in his fantasy series, The Eye of the Eye of Stallion, include The Face in Amber, The Mirrors of Castaway Time, and A Drop of Wizard's Blood. His new novel, Brothers of the Fire Star, was selected as a finalist in the ForeWord Reviews 2012 Book of the Year national awards and as a finalist in three categories in the 2013 New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards: Action Adventure Fiction, Historical Fiction, and Young Adult Fiction. It has become part of the pantheon of Pacific literature and is now included in school literature programs. Brothers of the Fire Star is an adventure story set in the Pacific during World War II and concerns two boys of different races and cultures who escape the island of Guam in a small sailboat when the Japanese army invades. They must then struggle to survive as they master the secrets of the ancient Pacific navigators. Appropriate for young adults as well as adult readers, Brothers of the Fire Star is available on Barnes & Noble, ( and Visit the author's website:

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Mark Twain and Rightous Indignation: Getting Serious About Blogging

Just read the recent Time Magazine article about Mr. Clemens and began wondering what he would have done with the Internet and would he have been a blogger? Well, sure he would have, in spades, would be my guess. A man who made a fortune on writing and then lost it all trying to develop a writing "machine" would have gone nuts over the machine I'm now using to write this. Sometimes I pity those poor writers who were born and who died too early to witness the mind-boggling, culture-warping technological advances of the past 20 years.

But never mind technology. Reading the article was a reminder of the great old adage that the more things change, the more they remain the same. Twain was aghast at the same things we need to be aghast at: racism, greed, imperialism, and arrogant, murderous religiosity. The technology changes but the dark workings of human nature continue unabated. The world was as much of a mess in 1900 as it is today.

So, here's a suggestion that Twain might support. He was, like myself, a great traveler who spent much time abroad. He said that nothing inoculates against racism like traveling and as racism is caused by small-mindedness and small-mindedness is caused by lack of exposure to the wider world of possibilities, the government should stop the wars it has going and spend equal amounts of money on sending each an every American overseas for a while. How long? Well, each of us would be required to live with a foreign family, eat their food, and learn to speak their language more or less fluently before would be allowed to return home.

And you don't get to pick where you go. The Committee on the Foreign Placement of U.S. Citizens for Purposes of Expanding Their Minds To Wipe Out Ignorance and Narrow Mindedness would decide that. We might send someone like Rush Limbaugh to Nepal say, to live in a yurt and learn to love Yak milk. I'd like to see that. And he'd be allowed to speak only Nepalese. That would shut him up for a while. And Ann Coulter? Where would we send dear gentle Ann? I'll have to think about that and make a recommendation to the Committee.

Friday, July 4, 2008

State-of-the-Art TV? Waiting for Godot or Proper Installment

You order stuff on line, from the other side of the world, and this is what can happen: You end up watching the Red Sox though your feet on and old stone-age set while the 47" HD set sits in its box. Short version of a long story? When the boys came to set it up, they didn't have a wall bracket to mount it on. Thought we already had one. Why would we already have one? I don't know. Meanwhile, the guy who installed the satellite dish put in the wrong one--not the HD version. Maybe we should have had one of those, too. Don't ask me. So, we need to get back on the phone to set up re-installation appointments. Easy? Nope. Yesterday we were put on hold for at least half an hour trying to get it done.

Am I whining about my perfect life? Shame on me. Today, July 4th, is the actual first day of my retirement, the day I'm actually legally separated from the Dept. of Defense Dependents School system after 28 years of Federal service. Below is a picture I took today of our perfect, 4th of July little town, Onancock, VA, a place where Walt Disney wouldn't have to change a thing to begin filming a movie starring Opie and Lassie and Huckleberry Finn.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

A Capitol Under Siege: What a Difference 20 Years Makes

One summer day, I'd say it was twenty years ago, I was alone in D.C. with no place to go and no promises to keep, as the song goes. After wandering around the Mall, I found myself walking up the broad and lovely steps of the Capitol building. Instead of going straight on up and into the rotunda itself, I went around the side, to the wings, where I found an open door--a side entrance. In I went. Unchallenged, I went up a staircase and began wandering down the corridors of power. It was, I admit, a bit of a heady feeling. Here I was, Joe Average America, freely exploring the haunts of folks who are on the nightly news, the arbiters of the American Dream. I felt as though I, too, was one of the Great Elected Upper Crust.

Incredibly, I continued to rubberneck my way through the building, going in and out of doors, up and down stairways as though I owned the place, as though, as an American taxpayer, I belonged here as much as the suited pols or their assistants I occasionally ran into. After an hour or so, I exited through another side door feeling as though I had, more than any other common tourist that day, experienced the business end of the Republic.

Oh, what a difference a couple of decades makes. Yesterday, as I repeated my walk around the Mall and again ended up at the steps of Capitol Hill, I was met by the scene pictured above: police were everywhere and streets cordoned off with big warning signs. Now, instead of being able to randomly visit the Congressperson of your choice, the voter must join a tightly controlled group of other voters/tourists and be led around by the nose by young, summer-job tour guides. Such a sad development. It left me with the feeling that our freedoms had been necessarily diminished, that the soul of the country had been blocked off, our access to ourselves and our freedoms painfully constricted.