The danger of forgetting our ‘Date of Infamy’

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imageI was nine years old the last time our nation fired a shot while openly declaring war with another nation. And while we have certainly spent the majority of the last few decades fighting abroad and sacrificing the lives of our young men and women in places like Kuwait, Qatar, Baghdad and Syria, the horrific attacks of Sept. 11 are the closest that many of my generation have come to experiencing war first-hand.

As a child, I was only peripherally aware of the Vietnam War and even less so of the Korean War, which ended before I was born. Yet, as the last shot was being fired in Vietnam, I already knew what Pearl Harbor was.

I knew how, on Dec. 7, 1941, a quiet Sunday morning was transformed into a fiery nightmare by Japanese planes that claimed the lives of more than 2,400 servicemen.

I knew about the USS Arizona, and how in less than nine minutes more than 1,000 men became entombed in the wreckage that now rests like a shadow below the harbor’s surface.

I also knew it was a morning filled with as many acts of heroism and sacrifice as there were moments of the horrific. Over the years, images in text books, commemorative issues from publications like Time magazine and stories captured in movies impressed upon me the virtues of valor.  Continue reading

Sorry, I’ve been incapacitated lately as an Elvis-obsessed elf

imageI’ve been called a lot of things in my life, many of which I can’t say here because of this blog’s questionable G-rating.

However, until a few weeks ago, I’d never been called “Elfis,” which is the name of an Elvis-obsessed elf I’m playing in our community theater’s production of “Ho-Ho-Hollywood.”

In fact, being involved in this show has introduced me to a lot of firsts in my life. For example, wearing a bell-bottomed jumpsuit with a teddy bear embroidered on the cape.

Also, I’ve never stuffed mini Christmas lights down my pants so that I can “light up” when necessary — something that caused one theater goer to ask another, “I wonder what Ned has in his pants?”

Yes, for those in the front row, I can hear you.

While we’re at it, having someone wonder what’s in my pants is also a new experience for me.   Continue reading

Before you buy that Christmas gift, ask Mr. Knowitall

imageSince the introduction of Mr. Knowitall, who is our resident historian, economist, food critic, movie reviewer, foreign affairs consultant, science correspondent, consumer products expert and vending machine repairman (not necessarily in that order), many of you have written in seeking advice about holiday gift-giving.

Due to the enormous volume of email we received, they will be answered through a lottery-style process — which means that, until he wins the lottery, Mr. Knowitall will continue to answer your questions.

So let us begin.

Dear Mr. Knowitall: Do those electronic muscle stimulators really help trim fat and tone muscles?
Really hope so in Reedsport

Dear Really: As you know, the principle behind the device is the utilization of a continuous sequence of small shocks that stimulates muscle activity, similar to your body’s own natural electrical impulses. An easy way to think of it is to visualize a car and its battery. Now visualize the car, the battery — and a pair of jumper cables clamped to your buttocks as someone starts the engine. While there’s no scientific proof this will trim fat and build muscle, studies show that most people find themselves stimulated enough to go to the gym after one session.  Continue reading

Low-calorie holiday treats that won’t cause diarrhea!

image Unless you’re a hyperactive nine-year-old fueled by Pixie Sticks and Hostess Cupcakes without an ounce of concern for weight-gain because concern is the ONLY ounce you’re going to gain this holiday season, then you’re like the rest of us trying to get through the next six weeks without looking like Jabba the Hutt’s stunt double.

What this means is finding a healthy balance between satisfying your God-given right to partake in all of those delicious holiday treats while, at the same time, adhering to the God-given Commandment to avoid gluttony.

Yes, the Lord does indeed work in mysterious ways. Take fruitcake for example…

No, seriously. Please take mine.

That’s because over the next few weeks I’ll be sharing quick and easy holiday recipe tips that are both low-calorie and delicious! And not just because “quick and easy” is my pet name.

Today, I am going to show you how to make a cup of hot chocolate that you can drink as an alternative to buttered rum or egg nog, which are not only high in calories but, depending on the alcohol content, can lead to makinge a snow angel in the front yard wearing nothing but a Santa hat.

In August.  Continue reading

Some tryptophan-inspired tips for NaNoWriMo writers

imageWelcome to a special post-Thanksgiving edition of Ned’s blog! What makes this post special? It’s the only day of the year I can refer to the writing tips I’m about to share as “giblets of wisdom.” The same goes for other Thanksgiving-themed writing idioms, such as “stuffing the bird,” “mixing my gravy” and “rinsing the gizzard.”

Ok, you’re right. Those last three don’t sound appropriate ANY time of year, including Valentine’s Day (depending on what you’re into).

For those of you who may be visiting for the first time (assuming you’re still reading), each Friday for two years I posted a weekly feature called Ned’s Nickel’s Worth on Writing, when I shared insights gained from 16 years as a newspaper columnist and offer them like the wax paper-wrapped innards of a holiday turkey; obviously important enough to include but something no one really wants to think about.

It was a weekly post The Master of Horror Stephen King® called “…the place I go to find answers to writing questions I never thought to ask. At least while sober…”

It was that kind of powerful, completely fictitious testimony that prompted me to combine those two years of writing tips into my second book, Pearls of Writing Wisdom: From 16 shucking years as a columnist, which was released last month.

Or maybe “escaped” is a better word.

Either way, with NaNoWriMo coming to an end and second and third drafts of manuscripts soon to be underway, I thought it would be a good time to pull an excerpt from my book about what to look for when revising, editing and polishing your manuscript.  Continue reading

A whisper rooted in thankfulness

Since becoming editor at Siuslaw News in September (Yes, I’m still the editor), one of my goals has been to make a more personal connection as a newspaper with our community. In Wednesday’s issue, I took the opportunity to open up a bit to our readers about one of the things I’m most thankful for and why…image

 

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Though it’s been 35 years since I arrived in Oregon as a high school sophomore, when people ask where I moved from, I still whisper when I say, “California.”

I do so in jest (mostly), secure in the knowledge that revealing my California roots — however withered — won’t suddenly bring nearby conversations to an embarrassing halt, leaving cricket chirps in its place.

Part of the reason is because, more often than not, those around me are also originally from California.

Seriously, folks. I’ve heard you whispering.

But recently, I’ve come to realize there’s a different reason I whisper when it comes to explaining where I was in relation to where I am now.

It’s a whisper rooted in thankfulness.  Continue reading

Separating Thanksgiving fact from fiction with the help of Mr. Knowitall

image It’s been more than 300 years since that first Thanksgiving, when the Pilgrims and Wampanoag Indians sat down together in celebration and, much like the Americans of today, made a solemn vow not to eat more than your standard bull elk.

We know this because of a passage recently discovered in the diary of Pilgrim Edward Winslow, who described the first Thanksgiving like this:

Our harvest be large so that we might rejoice! Our plates and bellies be full to swelling! We have feasted on meats and gathered crops, and pies of sweet fruit!
Aye, I say! I think it be time to vomit!

— Edward Winslow, Dec. 13, 1621

In spite of this kind of irrefutable historic documentation, many myths still exist about one of our most celebrated holidays. For example: Did anyone actually eat the Indian corn, or was it just used as a decoration? Continue reading

I’m finally giving up on being People Magazine’s ‘Sexiest Man Alive’

imageAdmittedly, I have given up my dream of being called “Sexiest Man Alive” by anyone other than my incredibly supportive, beautiful and nearsighted wife.

Back when George Clooney got the title a second time in 2006, I was inspired to continue my quest. Sure, the fact that he is ruggedly handsome, square-jawed and extremely fit were factors to consider — assuming you’re into those kinds of things — but he had a much more important quality that gave me hope: He’s actually WAY older than me!

By a good five years.

Which is almost a decade, really.

So, given our conclusion that George Clooney is practically a Centenarian, I was feeling pretty good about my chances, even after being overlooked for Bradley Cooper, Ryan Reynolds, Johnny Depp, Hugh Jackman, Matt Damon, Channing Tatum, Chris Hemsworth, Dave Beckham, Ross Murray, etc.  Continue reading

Thanks to our veterans, there will be plenty of time to disagree tomorrow

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Driving to work this morning, talk radio stations were full of the continuing discussion and debate over the elections. Hosts grilled pollsters, questioned campaign strategists and analysts. Guests expressed their exuberance or dismay over the results. Prognosticators made predictions ranging from whimsy to woe.

As I listened, I noticed one topic that was missing from today’s discussion table:

Veterans.

Without the fundamental right we have as a Democracy to vote, there would be no election to discuss — and without the service and sacrifice of others in defense of our nation, there would be no Democracy to afford us that precious right to vote.  Continue reading

The heart of Democracy isn’t in the chosen — but in the choosing

I purposely wrote today’s editorial early Tuesday morning, before any results, acceptance speeches or other Election Night events could influence my thoughts. I wrote this with my community in mind, however far that reaches…

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imageI’m writing this Tuesday morning, well before the final votes will be tallied and, quite possibly, contested by one side or the other in the days and weeks ahead.

As much as I’d like to believe Tuesday night will close the final chapter in a political season that
has played out more like a work of fiction than reality, my gut tells me there is already a sequel in the works to this poorly written chapter in American political history.

Yet, as I slipped my ballot into the drop box this morning, I thought of the poem “Election Day, November 1884” by Walt Whitman. In it, he eloquently expresses the simple but important notion that the act of voting is, in itself, more powerful than any individual elected within our Democracy.

The still small voice vibrating — America’s choosing day, the heart of it
not in the chosen, (but) the act itself the main — the quadriennial
choosing…

In this era of social media coverage, on-demand soundbites and the constant barrage of political ads, posts and Tweets, it’s easy to forget the fundamental value our vote represents — and that the sum total of our Democracy is larger than any one individual.  Continue reading