Monthly Archives: September 2014

Ten Great Sentences


Its vanished trees, the trees that had made way for Gatsby’s house, had once pandered in whispers to the last and greatest of all human dreams; for a transitory enchanted moment man must have held his breath in the presence of this continent, compelled into an aesthetic contemplation he neither understood nor desired, face to face for the last time in history with something commensurate to his capacity for wonder.

-F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

I go to encounter for the millionth time the reality of experience and to forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race.

-James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

This private estate was far enough away from the explosion so that its bamboos, pines, laurel, and maples were still alive, and the green place invited refugees- partly because the believed that if the Americans came back, they would bomb only buildings; partly because the foliage seemed a center of coolness and life, and the estate’s exquisitely precise rock gardens, with their quiet pools and arching bridges, were very Japanese, normal, secure; and also partly (according to some who were there) because of an irresistible, atavistic urge to hide under leaves.

-John Hersey, Hiroshima

It was a fine cry- loud and long- but it had no bottom and it had no top, just circles and circles of sorrow.

-Toni Morrison, Sula

For what do we live, but to make sport of our neighbors, and laugh at them in our turn?

-Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

It was the United States of America in the cold late spring of 1967, and the market was steady and the G.N.P. high and a great many articulate people seemed to have a sense of high social purpose and it might have been a spring of brave hopes and national promise, but it was not, and more and more people had the uneasy apprehension that it was not.

-Joan Didion, Slouching Towards Bethlehem

Anger was washed away in the river along with any obligation.

-Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms

There are many pleasant fictions of the law in constant operation, but there is not one so pleasant or practically humorous as that which supposes every man to be of equal value in its impartial eye, and the benefits of all laws to be equally attainable by all men, without the smallest reference to the furniture of their pockets.

-Charles Dickens, Nicholas Nickleby

In many ways he was like America itself, big and strong, full of good intentions, a roll of fat jiggling at his belly, slow of foot but always plodding along, always there when you needed him, a believer in the virtues of simplicity and directness and hard labor.

-Tim O’Brien, The Things They Carried

There is nothing more atrociously cruel than an adored child.

-Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita

And a bonus:

Like the waters of the river, like the motorists on the highway, and like the yellow trains streaking down the Santa Fe tracks, drama, in the shape of exceptional happenings, had never stopped there.

-Truman Capote, In Cold Blood


Posted by on September 30, 2014 in From the Desk of the Author


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We are the only creatures on earth that have an intrinsic understanding of our own demise. We know that we are going to die. Death. The word carries with it an enigmatic chill that conjures thoughts of skulls and such. Yet death is the true constant that links us all. Rather you fear it or seek it out, death will embrace us all. So why do we, who know that we will not endure, ,try so hard? Why do we pour the precious little time we have into jobs and relationships that we will ultimately leave behind? Why try so hard? Why try at all? I don’t think it is giving up on hope, but simply and admittance of my own mortality. I will die. I have loved the way I wanted to love. I have been a friend. When I die, I will linger for a time in the memories of those I love. I will manifest in the occasional tear that may rim the eyes of those precious few. But time will dim the memory and dry the eyes as my presence fades.

A swirling mist of doubt I feel
That chills me to the bone
No matter the joy life brings us
We all face death alone

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Posted by on September 23, 2014 in Penn's Diary


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Saving the World from Solomon Grundy (short essay #1)


Saving the World from Solomon Grundy

We killed Superman in 1992. A year later, we decided to break Batman’s back. “On a long enough timeline, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero.”[1] These two heroes had been around since before the start of WWII; however in the 90’s, they were simply not what we wanted to read about. It is not surprising that the popularity of comics took a plunge during this decade. Most of us were too busy seizing our own destiny with a controller firmly in hand to really care. We certainly didn’t want to read about the heroes of our childhood, especially when we could become heroes ourselves on the other side of the screen. We were Generation X and we would not stand for any cookie-cutter heroes.

Video games consumed us.[2] I know that Chun-Li’s blood type is A (why do I know this?). Consumed. Nintendo pumped out the Super NES in the early 90’s and Playstation grabbed our attention in the middle of the decade. Gaming, unfortunately, cannot be held fully responsible for the decline of comics during the 90’s. The market was ripe for glutting. The comic companies continued to run an absurd amount of the issues that collectors thought would be valuable. The same thing happened to baseball cards during the late 80’s and early 90’s. The market was flooded. To compensate, the comic companies started producing limited edition alternatives to boost value. Gold, silver, and hologram covers could not cover the fact that comics themselves were absolute shit.

A new comic book company was formed called Image. Have you ever heard the saying, “Image isn’t everything”? Keep that in mind. Image comics took a lot of the fresh new artists and offered them a chance to flesh out some really nice looking characters. This split the talent pool; the old writers were left with no real artists and the artists couldn’t carry a storyline. The Image characters were great for posters but that was about it. I am sure it seemed to the comic companies that we wanted something edgier and they delivered. More and more companies sprouted up overnight in the hopes to sell us some sex and violence. The heroes’ muscles and guns got bigger; the heroines’ costumes all but disappeared (probably to make room for their huge chests). This is what we wanted, right? We weren’t reading it anyway; we just wanted it to look cool.

Superman wasn’t cool. Batman didn’t kill people. Hell, comics weren’t cool. I learned quickly that talking about comics at school was a quick ticket to being outcast (as if my playing Dungeons and Dragons and being in choir didn’t already punch my ticket). Now comic books are cool. Now. “Liking comic books is popular, environmental awareness, being tolerant. If I was just born ten years later, I would have been the coolest person ever.”[3] I started collecting a comic book called Gen X. Here is a quick rundown of some of the team: a girl who could literally pull her skin off to create something new underneath, a guy that was missing his lower jaw and had to cover his face, a girl with autism, a mindless girl with diamond hard skin. I am sure there is some psychology study here that would make my head spin, but the point is that these kids were a far cry from the alien known as Kal-El.

We couldn’t relate to Superman, so he had to die. He and Doomsday beat each other to death in the streets of Metropolis. He was replaced by four heroes, but it did not take long for the writers to understand that the world of comics needed Superman. Superman was resurrected within a year’s time. It took us five years to get tired of him again, and the writers split him into two separate entities with more limits on his powers, Red Superman and Blue Superman. We can’t forget about Batman. The Dark Knight was not dark enough for us, so we broke his back and put him out of commission. And who better to break the bat than a villain that is pumped full of steroids? We replaced Batman with Azrael, a crime-fighter that did not share Batman’s aversion to killing. Azrael was the Batman we thought we wanted. “I don’t want you to be the guy in the PG-13 movie everyone’s really hoping makes it happen. I want you to be like the guy in the rated R movie, you know, the guy you’re not sure whether or not you like yet.”[4] However, we quickly realized that if he killed all the bad guys… well, there wouldn’t be any more bad guys. Lucky for us, Batman healed up and kicked Azrael’s ass into submission.

We killed Superman in 1992. A year later, we decided to break Batman’s back. If we don’t pull our heads away from our televisions and gaming, our icons will slowly disappear. Then, it won’t be long before the ideals that these characters stood for follow suit.

[1] Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk

[2] Up-Up-Down-Down-Left-Right-Left-Right-B-A-Select-Start (you know what I am talking about)

[3] 21 Jump Street (2012)

[4] Swingers (1996)


Posted by on September 18, 2014 in Penn's Diary


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Creative Non-Fiction Imitation Paragraph #4

Imitation Paragraph

“Somehow Form a Family” – Early

            My dad would get home from work and immediately instruct me to put on my baseball glove. His work ethic was no less impressive than Cal Ripken Jr. Sometimes, if I was already outside, he would not even go into the house. He would place his lunch box by the door and come right out to toss with me. His consistency paralleled the hitting of Tony Gwynn. My dad taught me how to play the game of baseball. He instilled within me an understanding of the game that I have not seen from my many teammates over the years. In those days, baseball was known for its speed and defense. Rickey Henderson, Tim Raines, and Willie McGee were demons on the bases, stealing easily. I wanted to hit the ball like Mike Schmidt and play defense like Ozzie Smith. My dad helped me; he gave me the tools I would need to succeed as a baseball player. Unfortunately, my father was a small man and he gave that to me as well. The high school baseball coach was looking for “strength and power,” and could not justify letting a five-foot-nothing, ninety pound kid on his team. I would love to tell you that I overcame size prejudices and became a star, but I cannot. I never played baseball again.


Posted by on September 10, 2014 in Uncategorized


Imitation Paragraph #3

Imitation Paragraph

“Consider the Lobster” – Wallace

            One cool October afternoon, I was told by my manager at work that I needed to head to the Dynasty clinic for a random drug analysis.* It is a strange feeling. Even though I knew that I had not taken any drugs, I was still concerned. Had I eaten anything recently that had poppy seeds? I took some ibuprofen last week; do I need to tell them? I wondered if my being picked was truly random, or if they had some reason for choosing me that I could not put my finger on. Regardless, my fear only served to heighten my awareness. I noticed a small box suspended on the wall in the waiting room. I nervously inspected the writing on the container; it was a comment box. The words “WE HOPE YOU HAVE A POSITIVE EXPERIENCE” were plastered there. I laughed. The lady called my name.  

            “Your comment box made me laugh,” I stated in an attempt to make the strange walk through the colorless halls bearable. She stared blankly at me. “I know I certainly don’t want a positive experience when I am going for a drug test,” I chuckled.

            Again there remained that blankness about the nurse as she replied, “We accept negative feedback as well.” I realized that not all people are clever.



*According to company policy, employees can be drug tested for these reasons: pre-employment, reasonable suspicion, post-accident, post-rehabilitation, and random quarterly testing.  


Posted by on September 9, 2014 in Uncategorized


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Fan Art Contest: Spread the Word

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Posted by on September 8, 2014 in Penn's Diary


Creative Non-Fiction Class

Imitation Paragraph #2

Beard “The Fourth State of Matter”

One.Two.Three.Four. I find myself on first base. Apparently people don’t like it when you say they are scared. Why else would this guy roll me four straight pitches? He stands in my face, fists drawn. I wonder if he really would break my nose. Stoicism in the face of his tirade seems to break the man from his unfounded rage. 

I am on my front porch, staring at the same man that threatened me. He is running for a local political office. His dangling flyer causes me much more alarm than his clenched fists ever could have. Are these the people that run our community? I stare at him, just as blankly as I did two years prior. I realize that his words are like a receipt to me, disregarded and forgotten as soon as they are given. 

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Posted by on September 6, 2014 in Uncategorized


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Creative Non-Fiction Class

Imitation Paragraph #1 

Hemley “Reading History to my Mother”

I see the birdhouse, hanging lopsided on the weather-worn pole. I don’t have any shoes on. I took them off so that I wouldn’t track dirt into the house. The path is only slightly worn, but still the risk of stickers in the grass causes me pause. I look at the birdhouse, then at the grass. My eyes finally settle on my lily-white feet, spoiled by the comforts of socks and expensive tennis shoes. My father ambles up next to me.

“Anything in the birdhouse?”

“Nope,” I reply. “Hollow.”


Posted by on September 5, 2014 in Uncategorized


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