Archive for the ‘Grumpy Lion’ Category

August 28, 2014

The medics decided today that The Lion doesn’t have colon cancer. To hear the sound of a joyous world cheering, click here.

Thus, more time to rage, to enrage, to enlighten, to enheavy, to annoy. Poor world!


The Birth of The Lion, Redux
July 26, 2014

I wrote this last year. But yesterday I saw in the obituaries of the Enterprise that my friend and mentor in those early days, Paul A., just died. He was 81 years old. Call this repeat publication a tribute to him and his influence on the course of my life.


Writer? No, no way. When I was fifteen my life course was set. Bacteriology. Microscopes and petri dishes. After all, I’d spent my whole life messing with science stuff. Chemistry sets. Microscopes. Electronic gadgets. Yup, I was headed for the laboratories of Science. And nothing in the world was going to change my mind.

Not that I was a slouch in high school English composition. I was pretty good at it, probably because I read a lot, always had. But I never gave a thought to Writing as a career, as something to be sought, as a life path to follow. I just needed good grades.

One day my guidance counselor called me into his office. More trouble? Nope. Mr. T had a job offer. The local office of the regional daily newspaper, the Cape Cod Standard Times, needed a high school stringer, someone to report and write news from my high school. Apparently, glowing reports of my writing skills had turned Mr. T to my direction. And it’s not as if I weren’t familiar with the newspaper business: I’d been a paper boy for a couple of years for this very same paper – even won a trip to Italy for writing a contest submission to Parade’s Young Columbus project.

So I said yes, why not. I could make a few bucks, do something different for a while, hell, maybe even get my name in the paper as a writer. Couldn’t hurt when it came time to apply to college.

Yeah. Goodbye science, hello journalism! Oh my, take my breath away why don’t you!

I interviewed with the managing editor of the local office, Bill S. He seemed to like me and seemed to think that I could actually write decently, though not professionally, not yet. He hired me and put me under the wing of Paul A., who was about ten years older and a real, day-in day-out staff writer, a real news reporter. Paul was about six feet tall, immensely thin, and a little hunched over, as if he’d spent his entire life from babyhood bent over a hot typewriter. Paul was to be my mentor, trainer, confessor even, in matters of the typewriter. He introduced me to Bob E., the photographer, who would fill the same role in matters of the camera. Bob was a gentle man, all smiles and fun, and intensely competent.

I should note that this all happened back in the days when newspapering was about hot lead Linotype machines, big black office typewriters, rotary dial telephones, and the Internet of the time, the teletype machines, big noisy electric keyboard machines that sent the news out from our office to the main office and picked up the news from the AP, from UPI, from the New York Times, from the world out there. That was newspapering, old style, and it was wonderful. Sometimes, later on, I got to work in the main office down the Cape, and I can still hear the sound, at eleven every morning, of the big presses starting to roll on the other side of the building, starting off slow, and building quickly to a rumble and a roar as they took the copy I’d written an hour ago and thundered it into the day’s newspaper. God, the smell of newsprint was intoxicating! And now, fifty years on, my favorite writing program is called WriteMonkey, and I love it for two things – it’s plain black screen that holds only the words I type, like a page of newsprint copy paper, and the sound effect of old fashioned typewriter keys as I type.

But all that came later. In the beginning I was just the new kid. They gave me a desk in the back of the newsroom, with a big black Underwood typewriter. Paul explained how to write a news story, how to use the inverted pyramid style, and the basic questions a story had to answer: who, what, when, where, and why. He taught me what was news and what wasn’t news, and how to write it. Paul was always calm, always professional. He was a gentle man, self-effacing but by no means weak or retiring. He knew how to dig a story out of a recalcitrant world.

Bob, the photographer, taught me the secrets of the old Forties-style Graflex Graphic cameras with focal plane shutters, those with the big flash attachment. He showed me how to slide the plates into the back, plates that held two pieces of film. I’d take a picture, then have to flip the plate to get the other film in place. He showed me how to develop film in the basement darkroom and how to make prints. He taught me what made a good picture, and what made a poor picture.

After a while they sent me out on some assignments that weren’t for the high school news. Take a picture of a meeting. Get information on some little story. And come summer they hired me as a full-time staff writer for the summer. The real deal. One of the best moments came when Bill called me in to his office about a short business story I’d written. It was only a few paragraphs. ‘First rate,’ he said, handing me the piece he’d cut from the news page.

My last summer I started writing a feature a week for the Sunday paper. Long pieces. With my byline identifying me as a Staff Writer. But I knew better: I was a reporter.

I learned to write in that little office downtown. I learned to write fast, to deadline. I learned to write clean copy that got to the point. I learned to think a story through as I wrote it: there wasn’t time to agonize over words and phrases. The clock was ticking. The main office would roll that big press at eleven in the morning, no matter what.

I learned other things too. Bill died of a massive heart attack a few years later. He was 39. Bob took a job in upstate New York. The office moved, got modernized. The paper changed its name. All that happened after I left the paper, about a year after high school, after I had worked for about a year down Cape as a full time staffer. I never worked as a reporter again after that last stint: I was too restless, had too many paths to run. Paul, the guy who taught me how to write, how to write news, moved up to the main office in Hyannis and stayed with the paper for his whole career. A few years ago I ran into Paul again. He was at the local supermarket, bagging groceries for minimum wage. Trying to make ends meet, he told me.

Seeing Paul again reminded me that there was no better place to learn to write than in a small newspaper office, facing daily deadlines, working with competent writers. Seeing Paul calmly bagging groceries reminded me that there are no guarantees in life, especially in the writing life. The best we can do is to write honestly, to write with integrity, to write with care, but no matter how good we are at it, we are subject to the same vicissitudes of the universe as everyone else.


To See The Stars, To Know One’s Mind
August 26, 2012

I’m normally a pessimist regarding global warming, the depredations of the human race, and the big issues. And with justification, I think. Civilization is coming to an end because we screwed with the laws of physics and as a species we continue to demonstrate that we simply don’t understand the laws of physics and that they apply to us. So, civilization is over. Mass extinction is underway. Our intent, as a species, is to hasten it.

But this morning, while the sky was still dark, I went out on the porch and looked up. A bright planet to the east, I think Venus, sat like a jewel among the stars. So many stars, yet only a small fraction of what I could see if the lights of the town and the neighborhood were off. Even so. So many. So bright. So far. It was wondrous to look at them, to realize what they were, to understand how they got there, how they came to be, how they work. And equally wondrous to know that there is so much we don’t know about them, and how much we can learn.

That’s a feeling the religionists cannot have. To them their god made the stars and planets. Not for them the understanding of the subatomic processes that keep the stars glowing for billions of years. Not for them the incredible processes of a nova, a supernova, a stellar collapse. God did it. Religion, religious belief, god: those stunt the mind, weaken the intellect, narrow mental and emotional horizons, undermine the human species, and now, hasten life toward extinction.

Perhaps that is pessimistic, to think, to believe that most of life in this biosphere will soon disappear. On the other hand I’m not afraid of it, no more than I am afraid of my own death. Because I am an atheist the religionists tell me I will burn in eternal torment once I die, while they will go to some place of eternal bliss, such place usually described as one of the most inconceivably boring, dull, terrible places imaginable, where one’s whole being must spend eternity worshipping some hugely narcissistic being. I’ve always said that given the choice I’d take the torment because the really interesting people and interesting ideas would be found there. Religious people tend to be boring even in this life: apparently their idea of bliss is eternal boredom and enslavement to a narcissistic being, and their idea of hell is a ferment of ideas and questioning and seeking after facts and evidence and truths. They have much to fear, and much to torment themselves with.

I have none of that. I think it sad that we are so incompetent as a species that we are willing to destroy life on earth in order to satisfy the whims and stupidities and fears of our weakest minds, but I know that the laws of physics will operate no matter what we do. By understanding and following them, we might save the biosphere. Unfortunately, and in large part due to religious ignorance, willful ignorance it must be said, and human stupidity and greed and selfishness, we choose to ignore physics. Nonetheless I take comfort in the fact that the laws of physics do work, that they aren’t subject to the caprice of invisible beings, and that we can understand them. That knowledge gives me a sense of optimism, a sense that though we will extinguish most life, including our own, in time life will rise again on the planet, and it is to be hoped that it will be devoid of the flawed intelligence evolution gave us, intelligence that cursed the world.

As for the theists and the rest of the superstitious crowd, frankly I do hope they get to their heaven of eternal worship. I can think of no greater curse to call down on them while I drink my morning coffee and gaze at the stars.


March 31, 2012

Give your cat a dollar bill to play with. Or a twenty. Or a fifty.

Yesterday my new wok arrived from a company in Phoenix, Arizona. It’s a nice Helen Chen carbon steel wok and I spent the afternoon seasoning it. Later I found a tarantula in the bathroom. I live on Cape Cod.

That’s all.


A New Award: The Lion’s Mane Furry Badge Of Courage
February 28, 2012

The Lion, in a fit of energy brought on by a mixture of Vanilla Ice Cream and Kahlua, has created a new award, as the title indicates. (I mean, why say it again? That’s what headlines are for, right?)

I digress. As often as possible.

The new award awards anyone who exhibits great courage and heart in the blogosphere by revealing aspects of the self that can benefit the rest of us, or some part of us humans – pick a number. But more than that, the awardee girds up his or her loins*, plucks up his or her courage, and charges out into the world to do good in spite of his or her problematic self. (Yeah, I know, I know. It’s the Kahlua, but I want to get this out.)

The first award goes to a redhead dynamo who lives in Winnetka, Illinois and may have worked almost as many jobs as the Lion. But that’s not what the award is for. Nope. This young woman (she claims 51 – The Lion’s thinking she’s lying and is really thirty or so) suffers from… well, here, she tells it better:

I can and frequently do spend days not interacting with my friends in a “real” way.  I’m scared of travel.  I’m scared of flying.  I’m scared of just about anything outside my door.  I have panic attacks.   I believe there is nothing more annoying than an emergency room doctor saying there is absolutely nothing wrong with you, it’s all in your head.

This frightened bit of redheaded fluff decided to do something about it, and vowed to leave the house and go meet all three hundred some odd of her Facebook friends last year. And went and did it. That’s tough fluff. Very tough fluff. She blogged it all at her blog (well where else would she blog?) Go look.

Because she was profiled in a WordPress promo piece she no longer has some three hundred FB friends. Last I noticed she had about five thousand, almost overnight.

She will therefore no doubt have forgotten our amusing exchange of yesterday, but nonetheless, Arlynn Presser of Winnetka, Illinois, is hereby awarded the very first Lion’s Mane Furry Badge of Courage, suitable for wearing with dress clothes, casual clothes, and bikinis.

Congratulations, Ms. Presser! You da winnah! You can pick up your Badge of Courage, giftwrapped and all combed and coiffed, next time you’re in the neighborhood.

* Does anyone know if girls have loins? Men always get the loin line in adventure stories and various holy books, but dames?

[Yeah, no more ice cream.]


The Lion’s Den… Or Living Room
February 27, 2012

I’ve been doing some redecorating or  remodeling or just sheer guesswork about colors and such. One result is the living room, redone in all it’s glory.

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And what the hell, here’s the real Lion’s Den, freshly redone with a brandly new bed, where he sleeps and writes and listens to NPR in the middle of the night when he can’t sleep.

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Whaddya think, too many books? I think of it as smart clutter. Or colorful  intellectual snobbery. Or just a comfortable place to sleep. I’ll probably die in this room. Someday.


Meet Frank, Who Lives In My Garden
February 19, 2012


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That’s Frank, known otherwise among polite people as St. Francis of Assisi.

He used to live in my mother’s bedroom, on top of a dresser, where she draped his arms with her gold chains. I doubt that Frank saw his mission in life was to drape himself in gold and hang out in women’s bedrooms. He was her favorite saint but I never understood her using him as a jewelry stand.

Anyway, she’s gone and I decided that Frank needed to renew his vows and such. His big saintly concept was to love animals, if you recall correctly. So I put him out in the back yard, in the bushes along the fence where cats skulk and rabbits hide and skunks amble and possums root for grubs. Frank’s a homey there.

Every morning when I  step out for a breath of fresh air, or rain, I look at him and say, “Hi Frank. Well, we’ve really screwed up the planet, dude. Enjoy it while you can.” Or words to that effect. Sometimes it’s just, “Hi Frank.” I figure he knows the rest by now.

He never says anything. He just stares up into the sun. I figure he’d rather be blind than look at what we’ve done.


Ah well, better sun and rain than gold chain, Frankie. Right?


Melissa Says “Go lookie what I did!”
October 1, 2011

Take a peek. Bright spot maybe in a dimming world. (Hey, just because the Magnificent Alabama Blonde Blogger does good doesn’t mean I have to give up my cynicism.) Read all about her Courtneyish self’s new work at WriteChic Press.

Cero Foundation

The Mane Is Gone… Remember The Mane!
July 1, 2011


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After ten years of growing hair nonstop, The Lion finally gave it up. Two feet of hair hit the barbershop floor and The Lion was free of hair hassles, with nary a regret in sight.

Sorry, ladies. But I’m still a charmer, with vast intelligence, untold wealth, incredible wit, and stunning good looks. Right? Right??



Grumpy Lion: For Those Who Have Only Guessed, The Real Thing
June 25, 2010

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Secret photos of the real Grumpy Lion as he goes about his work slashing and biting at reality. The photos were taken at great personal risk, and can only be shown here due to the the immense contributions of a mysterious person known only as Shorty.


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