Issue 4 - Spring 2004
Journal of the

"Ontology on the go!"


This issue of the Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society is dedicated to William Benson.

Earlier this year our poetry editor, William Benson, died after a long struggle with non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma. We will miss him, his nonpareil taste and discrimination in the selection of poetry for each issue, and his enthusiasm for poetry in all its forms. He was a fine poet and a fine person and we are fortunate to have the poetry he was able to leave us.

This poem by Robert Tribble was read at William's funeral.


Your illness tugged our hearts in ways
We did not know, now you are gone.

Your books are stacked, the room swept clean
The voice, once articulate, forever still.

Like Lycidas, "dead ere his prime,"
You leave us questions. There must be more

Behind the screen of life, if birth and death
And lethal gene are but the sum of all we are.

That we will miss you, friend, is trite but true,
Yet beyond our tears will be memories

And always friendship, as if spoken
With firm handshake and close embrace.


This will be the last issue with poetry for a while.

Ginger Mayerson
Summer 2004

Contact the Author via J LHLS; Comment on this Essay; Read the Comments; Table of Contents

Durlabh Singh

A Brief History of Punjabi Poetry

From the eleventh century onwards, foreign invasions into Northern India and Punjab caused the gradual disintegration of the fabric of the society, its law and order, and the political traditions of its people. It was a nasty blow to the society at large and its cultural traditions.

As it is always the case with invaders, they consolidate their position. The first thing they have to do is to destroy the native language of the people, resulting in destruction of the common culture of the people. Persian and Arabic languages were imposed and people were required to learn these colonial languages.

The education system was changed and schools began to teach these languages. The middle classes took to it readily so as to get good jobs for themselves and their children, and the whole business of commerce began to be conducted in these languages. It infiltrated law courts and in order to get any justice a person had to have a consultation with a legal representative who was well-versed in the languages of the invaders.

Thus wholesale exploitation of the poor and underprivileged began to happen and the ruling classes had a heyday, seizing land from the Punjabi peasants and profiteering in other ways.

As the invaders were mostly Muslims and the conquered people mostly Hindus, a seed of conflict was sown between the two classes. Mullahs and Pundits became the leaders of their own sects and gained much prestige. They soon imposed their own laws and ideologies on the illiterate masses and people had no choice but to obey them.

The situation became intolerable. The sensitives, the poets, the freethinkers rose in unison against this oppression by the ruling classes. Saints, Sadhus, and Sufis came forward and preached a greater law of humanity than the narrow law of the kings, the powerful, and the ruling bureaucrats.

As a backlash, a re-emergence of the Punjabi language occurred, joined with the popular mass movement of the people of Punjab. These new thinkers found Punjabi an excellent vehicle to propagate their new ideas of equality and justice, for all the people irrespective of their caste or creed. This language spoke directly to people, in contrast to the middle classes who always conversed in Arabic Persian dialects.

A new era of classical Punjabi poetry was ushered in starting with Baba Farid and ending with Waris Shah and Bulleh Shah. The other major poet of Punjabi who came after them was Guru Nanak.


Earlier Punjabi language had no script of its own and was written in Landha or Mahajani script. These had no vowel sounds, which had to be imagined. With the birth of Sikhism a new alphabet was needed urgently, for the language to define a separate cultural identity and become a vehicle for the new religious teachings.

Landha or Mahajani scripts were derived from Sanskrit and did not represent all the sounds contained in the Punjabi language. Muslim poets wrote their Punjabi writings in Persian script and it was called Shahmukhi script or "the script uttered from the mouth of Shah or the king".

The second Sikh Guru, Angad Dev, did a great service for the Punjabi people by inventing a new script called Gurmukhi or "utterings from the mouth of the guru". It had thirty five letters in its alphabet to incorporate all the sounds not found in other languages. Muslim Punjabi writers have always had an inbuilt prejudice against Gurmukhi script, even up to the present day and still carry on with Shahmukhi script, especially in Pakistan.

The same things used to happen among Punjabi Hindu writers who wrote their Punjabi in Hindi script.

The birth of Khalsa or Sikhism is deeply entwined with Punjabi poetry as almost all the Sikh Gurus were accomplished poets/musicians and created moving verses set to classical music, laying the foundation for new religious utterings combined with a quest for Punjabi identity. In a sense Guru Nanak was the first real 'Punjabi' who gave its inhabitants a pride in reclaiming their separate identity.

Following is the short chronology of ten Sikh Gurus:

Guru Nanak Dev Ji (1469-1539) The founder of Sikhism who preached the brotherhood of man and equality of sexes. He travelled over vast distances including India, Tibet, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia and taught his message of peace and love. A prolific poet who composed hymns and other works which became the basis of Adi Granth.

Guru Angad Dev Ji (1539-1552) The guru who devised new alphabet of Gurmukhi, thus giving people an identity, a faith, and the beginning of a new Punjabi sensibility.

Guru Amar Das Ji (1552-1574) He condemned and abolished the practice of Sati (widow burning) and divided Punjab into 22 districts of Sikh faith and appointed a learned preacher as the head of each.

Guru Ram Das Ji (1574-1581) He founded the holy city of Amritsar and laid the foundation of the pool of nectar at the Golden Temple.

Guru Arjan Dev Ji (1581-1606) He organised Sikhism into a fresh mission and stated that no field of life whether temporal, social, or political was to be excluded from the operation of mystic venerations and the divine light. He was the first Guru to be tortured by the Mogul Emperors of India and was later executed. He compiled Adi Granth as the sole scriptural authority for the Sikhs.

Guru Har Gobind Ji (1606-1644)

Guru Har Rai Ji (1630-1661)

Guru Har Kishen Ji (1661-1664)

Guru Teg Bahadur (1664-1675) This was a period when there was a wholesale forced conversion of Hindus to Islam . The Pundits from all over India approached him for spiritual guidance. He challenged the Mogul emperor Aurangzeb and was tried and beheaded for championing the cause of Hindus.

Guru Gobind Singh (1675 -1708) The great warrior poet who founded the Khalsa panth and gave Sikhs their distinctive dress code.


There was a revival of Punjabi poetry under the reign of Sikh king Maharaja Ranjit Singh (1780-1839) who was a great patron of arts and encouraged poets and painters to his durbar. He was a secular king who did not make Sikhism the state religion and appointed Sikhs, Hindus, and Muslims to top places in his cabinet.

The British were at the door of Punjab by then as they had annexed the rest of India already and were looking for Ranjit Singh to die so they could snatch this last territory for the British Empire. Due to internal dissention after the death of Ranjit Singh, the Sikh army lost the battles and British rule was imposed on Punjab in 1849.

Under the British, Urdu became the official legal language and teaching of Punjabi was prohibited in schools. They brainwashed the people with the notion that Urdu was a superior language for the literati and the Punjabi language was only fit for the peasants. It was a good ploy for a divide and conquer strategy.

Punjabi literature went into decline until Bhai Vir Singh came on the scene . He was the doyen of modern Punjabi literature and established a new landmark with his first novel Sundari. He became an example to others, and a new generation of Punjabi poets, playwrights, novelists were born. Among the prominent poets was Bhai Vir Singh himself, together with contemporary writers such as Amrita Pritam and Shiv Kumar Batalvi.


Baba Farid (1173 -1266)

He is the Chaucer of Punjabi poetry. He was a mystic and belonged to the radical sufi Chishti school. He participated in the people's struggles for salvation, and against the ideologies of the supremacy of the ruling classes. He built his poetry on simple expressions based on folk traditions, typical being the Dohra or a couplet. Though simple in form, his poetry disclosed a deep truth about human life.

Dohra - Baba Farid

Farid Kaaley maindey kaprey, kaala mainda wais,
Gunahan Bharehan main pheraan, Lok kahain dervish

Oh Farida! I have taken to
Wearing black clothes and my
Whole garb is of black phase
Full of sins a dress I wear
But people call me a dervish.

Bulleh Shah (1680-1758)

He is one of the greatest Sufi poets of Punjab and was so unorthodox in his life that he was refused burial in the community grave yard by the Muslim priest after his death. He was born as Abdullah Shah but changed his name according to poetical convictions. He had a sister who like him remained celibate and spent her life in meditation. Under master Inayat Shah he achieved great poetical and spiritual attainments.

In the city of love I got lost
Being cleansed, I am withdrawing
From my head, feet and hands
I even got rid of my eyes
I have attained my goal
It has ended so well.

O Bulleha! Lord prevails everywhere
Now none appears a stranger to me.

Quazi and mullah stray away
And paddle their religion
like hawkers
They are like bird trappers
Of this world
And throw away their nets
Everywhere to catch innocents.

Waris Shah (1736-1790)

In the tradition of Punjabi Quisa, the arrival of Waris Shah was an epoch-making event. His Heer Ranja is a romance of star-crossed lovers who are doomed to a tragic end, something akin to Romeo and Juliet of Shakespeare. This ballad-like form consists of 600 stanzas and is full of a true classical dimension of beauty and pathos.

It depicts in detail the customs of Punjab, the lives of ordinary men and woman, and the tenderness of love. It has been regarded as a sociological, artistic, and mystical episode in the secular spirit of Punjab. It is sung in a special mode of musical composition based on folk and classical ragas. It is popular on both sides of the Punjab and when rendered by a competent singer, can reduce its listeners to tears.

It is very difficult to render in translation the flavour and sounds of Punjabi words but below I give an extract from my own composition which is directly inspired by this quisa. Heer was forced to marry against her wishes but was not happy with her forced marriage as she was always pinning for her lost lover Ranja. Ranja then renounced his family and became an ascetic or a jogi. He calls upon Heer for alms but she fails to recognize him in his new guise with shaven head and ringed ears. Heer refuses to believe that she will ever see her beloved Ranja again. She thus complains:


No soul enamoured in this wide world
That can bring about my heart's satiation
Certainty within my soul will never again
Gaze upon starred face of Ranja yaar
And never again the buds of my heart
Blossom anew in cloudy tales of romance.

I will sell my skull for vessel to be made
My dark tresses for silken rope to be woven
My gory skin for the shoes to be soled
And gauged eyes to blinds for instructions.

Oh my lord if my heart was not so worn
Glimpse of Ranja yaar was enough
To restore my soul.

Guru Nank Dev Ji

A great poet and founder of a new religion who saw the invasion of Punjab by Baber, the first mogul king, and the misery of his people as its result. He took up poetry to give a voice of protest against this cruel fate of the Punjab. He championed the cause of weak, the poor, and of women, and incorporated into his verses a new innovation of poetical form and expression.

He composed verses of great beauty about divinity, human relationships with God, and the salvation of an individual through a philosophical teaching which though simple in appearance speaks of great profundity. His composition Japji Sahib gives the essence of his teaching and is set in vigorous verses. It is used by the faithful as their daily meditation.

The following extracts are taken from Professor Puran Singh's translation.

He is One. He is first. He is all that is.
His name is Truth.
He is the Creator of all.
Fearing naught, striking fear in naught
His Form, on lands and waters
Is Eternity; the One Self-existent.

Through the Grace of His servant
Continually repeat His name
He was in the beginning
He is though all ages
He shall be the One
Who lives for ever.


Abundant is His mercy, as great as Himself
He giveth and giveth, taketh not even
A mustard seed from aught else.

The great warriors beg their might from Him
and numberless wrecks of sin wait at his Door.

There are others who receive His plenty
and eating His Bread deny Him
fools think not on His mysteries.

In Thy courtyard die thousands of hunger
and of the ills of flesh.

O Almighty Giver! This too is Thy mercy
this too is Thy love.

By Thy will the chains of the prisoners drop
the bound are freed and the free are bound
who else could divine Thy purpose ?

If any dare go against Thy Will
he will know for himself how painful
to him is his pride.

He knows us better than we know ourselves.

Guru Gobind Singh

His writings have universal appeal, touching the tender strings of the heart and arousing courage for a life of purposeful action.

He wrote his Zafarnama in chaste Persian to the Mogul king Aurangzeb, reminding him of the teachings of the Quran as opposed to the plunder of his army against the weak and destitute of India.

Dasam Granth is an anthology of his writings, a voluminous book of 1066 pages in gurmukhi. He gave Guru Granth Sahib, the holy book of Sikhs, its final form as a scriptural authority for the people to follow. He was the last guru of the Sikhs.

He is the perfect example of manhood, highly educated, chivalrous, and generous in character. His mission was to transcend sectarianism, as he considered God beyond religions, and the division of mankind into castes, colours, and nationalities as meaningless.

Some spend all their lives in dark jungles
In useless endeavours wasting their lives
Pay attention as I speak the truth
Only who love can find God.

Some worship stones
Some hang lingams around their necks
Some says God dwells in the South
Others worship the west
Some worship idols or put trust in tombs
All go astray in false rituals
None knows the secrets of God.

Without wisdom they are ever
Subject to fearful death
Shivas come and go
Incarnations of Rama and Krishna
Are many
But all in the end
Went their way under noose of death.

Bhai Vir Singh (1872-1957)

The father of modern Punjabi literature, he single-handedly brought about a renaissance of Punjabi poetry. He was the first one to use blank verse form in poetry and was the author of numerous novels, plays, and poetry collections. He was a pioneer in starting the first Punjabi daily newspaper. Winner of many literary awards, he was a grand personality. He gave Punjabi verse a sophistication and new expressions.

In his poem lagian Niban, a girl is complaining about her insensitive lover:

I have fallen in love with a stone
Who owns neither laughter
Nor any expression
But I admit he is handsome
And enchants my heart
But he is so secretive of nature
And never lets me into his heart.

I wanted to run away from him
But even that I cannot depart
Though there is no warmth
In his closeness when I meet
Alas! I have to accept the situation
As I cannot bear to be without
His physical presence across my heart.

Amrita Pritam (born 1917)

A household name in the sphere of poetry, a single poem, Aj Akhan Waris Shah noo brought her fame across both sides of the Punjab. It refers to the situation after partition of India in 1947 when thousands of people were uprooted from their homes, murdered and raped, and blood flowed everywhere.

She was chosen as poetess of the millennium in India and has won the Sahitya Akademi award for her outstanding collection of poetry, Sunehray. She has published 24 novels, 15 collections of short stories, and other numerous anthologies. Her work has been translated into 21 Indian languages, English, Albanian, Bulgarian, Russian, French, Polish, and Spanish. Her poetry is a wonderful blend of earthiness and psychic sophistication. It combines a lyrical quality derived from Sufi and Sikh traditions with an undercurrent of feminism.

Aj Akhan Waris Shah noo
Kite kabran wicho bol
Te Kitabe ishak da koi
Aglaa varka khol.

Today I implore Waris Shah
To speak from beyond his grave
And I ask him to open anew
A page in book of love again.

When a single daughter of Punjab cried
You penned verses upon verses of grief
Today thousand daughters of Punjab are crying
Come back and give tongues to their dark briefs.

A Needle of Light

Our destiny has been tattered
There are torn patches in sight
My country now requires
A needle of the Light.

I was repairing my phulkari
With a needle to thread
But the earth shook
With a great fright
And broke my needle
The needle of the light.

Shiv Kumar Batalvi (1936 - 1973)

A bohemian poet of the Punjab who drove himself to an early death through drink and epilepsy. His verse play Loona won him the Sahitya Akedmi award and brought to light a new interpretation of the legend of Pooran Bhagat in modern media. He expressed his inner sufferings through brilliant lyrics. Like John Keats, he was "half in love with the easeful death".

He was uprooted from his native land by the traumatic partition of India in 1947 which affected his psyche deeply, as a source of melancholy and fearful sorrow, but he never expressed it in his early poetry. Only at the end of his poetic career was he able to express it. Dudh da Katal, or the murder of milk, signifies the destruction of the milk of his mother, the mother Punjab, during its division .

I still remember it today
And you must remember it too
When together we murdered our mother
They killed my childhood they killed my mother
And a cold corpse was left at my place to rot.


I have a longing to die young
To go to realm of youth
After my demise.

I sing to conceal my agonies
Under the guise of lyrics
Sweet and serene the curses
Miserable and doleful verses.

I have been occupied
With burning the lamps
Of my own existence, fears
Feeding it with flowing oils
From my own saline tears.


For Punjabi poetry books, individual poets and their English translations, please contact the following :

MotiLal Banarsidass Publishers. Largest supplier of books on India & Indolgy. Founded 1903. On the web at

All India Lierary Academi. On the Web at

Other books and sites:

Secularization of Modern Punjabi Poetry by Attar Singh ISBN 0836458583 South Asia Books (1988)

Sufi Thought: Its Development in Panjab (Vedams Books- India -

Shadows of Words - Autobiography by Amrita Pritam

Internet sources for all the poets quoted in article see:

Legends of Punjab including details on Bulleh Shah, Waris Sha & Guru Nanak. and - Gateway to Sikhism for Guru Gobind Singh

On writings of Guru Gobind Singh & online version of Sri Guru Granth Sahib, the Adi Granth see


Durlabh Singh ( was born in Kenya, but has been a long time resident of London. He is widely published, including a new book of verse, "The Bats", with Poetry Society (, and "Chrome Red" (, with Author Publishing Ltd in the United Kingdom. In addition to being a poet, he is also a visual artist (

Contact the Author via J LHLS; Comment on this Essay; Read the Comments; Table of Contents

William Benson


Every other Monday,
as the Cocktail Hour crests to a peak,
I resist the old listlessness of spirit,
and speed east to Pasadena and
a rendezvous with the moonlighting
crew at Zeli's Cafe.

No sooner do I arrive
than piped-in pop music,
the yuppie crowd's tacit indifference
and the cacophony of traffic
up and down Colorado Boulevard
all threaten to engulf my soul
beneath a sonic undertow.

Yet somewhere
between the disparate influences
of a zealous Whitman
and a profane Bukowski
we roll up our sleeves
devout as Jesuit missionaries,
mining our imaginations
for the next nugget of beauty,
the next raw gem of inspiration.

William Benson was Poetry Editor of the Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society for Issues 1-4. We will miss him very much.

Contact the Author via J LHLS; Comment on this Essay; Read the Comments; Table of Contents

Kathy LaFollett

Zen and Zoom

For my husband, who is and always will be the center of my universe.

In six weeks or so I'll be forty-one years of age. This is not a matter of grave importance, or a substantive statement toward my own value as a human. But, this gateway does usher in an epiphany of sorts for me as mother, wife, daughter, and female.

The last three years have been a warp zone inasmuch as life and all its dynamics have forced me to reevaluate who I am and why I do the things I do on a daily basis. At thirty-nine I removed the term "obligation" from my vocabulary. In our society there seems to be a current of obligatory guilt that streams from one individual to another. I often have wondered if consumerism as it pertains to holidays hasn't promoted that portion of life's demands. I hold Hallmark liable. Mother's Day, Father's Day, Secretary's Day, Grandparent's Day, and all the other "days" they've chosen either by Executive order or merely as another reason to produce a line of gift cards, has laid out in calendar format obligations.

Why, I ask myself, must there be a special "day" when in essence every day should produce actions and natural human interactions that support the idea that all those who carry these titles should be treated with respect and honor? Why just one day? And if an employer, child, wife, husband, grandchild waits for that one day to show thanks, what good are the remaining 364 days?

At forty I removed the terms "American Dream" and "Happy". The American Dream is a fallacy, a lie. It does not exist. Again, I hold liable consumerism and all corporations utilizing this lie as a marketing tool. Drive the "right" car, live in the "right" house, send the kids to the "right" school, possess the "right" job title, wear the "right" clothes", ad nauseam. I have one question: who defined the term "right' and why is it "right" for me? To hell with that; I define what's "right".

"Happy", although a good word, is not a state of being, not as a human per se. I have replaced it with the term "content". Somewhere in my first eighteen years of life everyone forgot to tell me that life is a series of challenges; they change, they morph, they ebb and they flow, but it is always a series. One can be content in that flux, but not necessarily happy. I have embraced the idea that I can rest content in any state on any given day.

Approaching forty-one with my revised set of vocabulary and motives has been a liberating time. It's also been an influence on my husband. I am an influencer. He too, has adopted my revised vocabulary. Together we are entering into a new phase of life which has influenced our children. We are influencers.

As a 3D graphic artist, 80% of my day is spent at a computer. I communicate through it, create with it, plan with it, and generally interface with a monitor ten hours a day. This can be hard on the back as well as the mind. Deciding to bring in a bit of Zen I bought a tree, a small tree, just eight inches high. He lives in a small unglazed pot. I nurture him, water him, prune him, and coax him to become a lovely Bonsai style that when looked upon calls a vision of an old wisdom-of-the-ages tree. He has been an influence on me. He too, is an influencer. He influenced me to buy more trees. I have seventeen Bonsai now. They are all influencers of varying sizes, shapes, and states of being, and they are all flourishing.

I've been pushing my graphic design company for a few years now, chasing that "American Dream" of success, money, et al. At forty I gave up that definition, which skewed my motives with my work. Why was I sitting in front of a monitor all day when I could be doing something more fulfilling? Why was I spending 7 days a week in front of a monitor pushing for a state of success that would force me to continue to work seven days a week in front of a monitor? I had lost my mind obviously. I posed the question to my husband, which only forced another question.

"Why am I working five days a week programming so that I can continue to work five days a week programming?" he countered.

"Damn good question. Obviously you've lost your mind." I replied.

Since Cali and I are both logic based individuals, he a Senior Programmer, I a 3D computer graphic artist, we immediately went to the local bookstore and spent a few hundred dollars on gardening books, bonsai books, and other books pertaining to the Zen state of Organic gardening and the oriental style of "little tree in a pot". To regain our sanity it seemed imperative to choose a path as polar as the Earth's poles from our current situations. Damn the computer chips, full speed ahead!

Over the span of five months our front porch became a jungle proffering all types of edible beings in herb and vegetable form. Countless containers filled to the brim with good things. Trees in pots also take their place among the collection of seed-bearing Zen.

Ironically, as we realized when friends and coworkers requested to purchase said Zen in Containers, this could be a business. Something that can sustain us in our capitalist state of life, yet remove us from the cold corporate driven wheel we've been taught to embrace. I immediately found myself back in front of a monitor designing a website for the very thing that would ultimately replace that monitor.

Daily we would rise with the birds to tend our small gardens and trees to then part ways at 8 a.m.; he to his office setting, me to continue the digital storefront as well as nurturing both plants and children. An epoch of perfection was reached about 4 weeks ago. Flourishing foliage, rising interest in a growing consumer base, happy children, and I quite contentedly going about the daily routine of keeping everyone and everything well fed and watered. We were exponentially growing in knowledge and contentment until…Cali found a 2004 two-tone Orange Victory Vegas Motorcycle.

Actually it started before that. Blurred vision kicked in about the time Cali THOUGHT about a motorcycle, I'm not quite clear about the moment that this occurred, but as he became more interested, he became more driven to locate just the right bike. Cal focused on Harley-Davidson, Ducatti, Honda, and Aprillia. It seemed the more he thought about it the more motorcycles were manufactured until ultimately I was certain that these companies had a direct patch into his brain and were pumping out models to his exact thought specifications. How many types of motorcycles are there, REALLY?

The world may never know.

I realized that his epiphany did not necessarily lie within mine. Zen masters teach a perfect state of life success that garners full respect from life, or Kwan. Cali's epiphany lay in the freedom and exhilaration of riding a bike of supreme creamy mojo; the Victory Vegas, his Kwan. At thirty-four, Cali was changing his vocabulary from Jeep to Victory.

The internet, spread before him via his monitor, presented hundreds of options, thousands of details, and millions of reviews, opinions, and locations of procurement. His joy grew and fervor rose with every website visit and new detail found. Passionately he read, reread, viewed and assimilated the world of motorcycle ownership. The mere act of research brought such a joy to him; he was a child in a candy store with a ten dollar bill.

I continued to water the plants. Content in the act of watching him dive headfirst into this new world he hoped to join. We would together, go out into the world and visit motorcycle stores in our area. I appreciated the beauty of design that contained power, speed, and a level of life quality that only some understood in these machines. Cali would sit on one, get up, sit on another; I could see his eyes half close with imagination as he envisioned himself powering down the roads of Florida. Was THIS the bike?

He asked that question a dozen times.

I continued to water the plants, content in knowing that sooner or later, he'd make a choice.

Somewhere in the annals of psychotherapy there is a dissertation called "Garage Theory and How it Applies to the Male's Ego and Id". In this hidden white paper a theory is spelled out that every husband needs a garage. A place he can go that his wife and children cannot. This garage is a place that defines the male, a place that only the male can change and impact. Only the male is allowed in, and only he can invite others to enter.

Cali's garage is the Victory Vegas. A mobile concept, the bike will offer freedom in movement and autonomy of thought that expresses his personality and maleness. I embraced this higher definition and entered the fray as we took the final step towards purchase. I took the position of accountant, secretary, and legal aide.

And I continued to water the plants.

Utilizing the internet he found the bike and the dealer and the deal. We visited the local dealership to view the orange Vegas in person. She sat on the showroom floor in all her glory. I was sold. I was smitten. Cali took a seat on his throne of Kwan and melded into his state of bliss. Yes, this was the bike.

A moment of dickering took place that would rival any point of sale on the streets of India. The dealer and Cali head to head; offer to counteroffer to add-on for free plus a bit over cost. We left the store both in a bit of mindless puppy love over an entity of steel, chrome, and aluminum.

Damn, I forgot to water the plants.

In the evening, we sat on the front porch surrounded by our jungle of Zen discussing his Victory Vegas. It seems one is mandated to name one's bike. I didn't name my plants, but a bike must be named it seems. After false starts and word plays on Las Vegas (I suggested Elvis, which proves even a creative may not always be creative) a title of perfection was realized; Kwan, and on the plates, MY KWAN. Cali had found his Kwan as I had found my Zen.

A holiday weekend brought a bit of Karma to the situation at hand. The dealership's offer seemed less inviting to Cali on Saturday than it did on Friday. He once again rode the digital highway for a better deal and landed in North Carolina. Through email conversations he had obtained a better offer, and saved a few thousand on the same bike. On Sunday Arizona was in play. A counter offer to the North Carolina offer that also beat Florida! Was this March Madness? A sporting event played with a ball shaped like a bike?

I continued to water the plants.

On Monday, a National Holiday, Cali proffered the Arizona counteroffer to the North Carolina offer to the Florida dealership. No reply. Destiny played a card, as Cali played a Visa and put the down payment on the bike. In the dry air of Arizona, tucked away in Phoenix sat his Victory Vegas. It was up to us to rescue it from the grips of a retail setting and bring her home.

Time passed, but not fast enough for Cali. The FedEx truck came to our door with a package containing the scripts and declarations that would set his Chrome Kwan free.

At this point I'm not working on our digital storefront, and am only watering the plants. All efforts and time and focus are laid bare to the Kwan of Phoenix. Interstate purchases, although common, are not necessarily simple. The package of paperwork was a veritable cryptic puzzle that had to be unlocked to release the prize.

Odometer readings, VINs, interest rates, document fees, insurance, monies down, shipping, verifications, notice of warranties, power of attorney, title transfer, disclaimer of warranties, pay schedules, loan brokers, credit union, retail order forms, and general applications stared up at me from my desk.

I just want to grow some plants!

My Zen had been blocked by this point. A bit of frustration rose in my chest. Would obtaining the Kwan destroy my Zen? Would chasing the Kwan down like a greyhound on a plastic rabbit be the demise of my next personal metamorphosis? Would this NEVER END? I set to task obliterating this final stage acquisition like a five-star general in the theatre of war. I would eliminate this, and I would finish this, because I just want some peace.

And I just want to grow some plants!

To alleviate the stress, I took my turn at the internet and ordered 2 new trees. It helped.

I have learned while walking this path of enlightenment that one cannot necessarily embrace another's Zen, or Kwan, or garage, for that matter. One can respect it, possibly admire it, and even look forward to its arrival and sharing it. But, at some point that Zen or Kwan belonging to another becomes labor and not necessarily a labor of love. Your only goal is acquisition so that you don't have to focus on it anymore.

It's been three days since the FedEx truck dropped off the package containing all that paperwork.

Our plants are watered. The paperwork is done. Cali is at work and soon the Kwan will arrive. Order has been restored to my immediate universe. My new trees, ordered at the height of my frustration, will arrive today. I am once again centered.

Until an email arrives.

There seems to be a small matter about a helmet, gloves, boots, leather jacket, pants, stage two upgrades, new pipes, tachometer, saddlebags….

I water my plants while quietly giggling. I love this man and his Kwan. Without him no amount of anything would work. HE is my Zen, all else is an added on item I must have negotiated on our wedding day.

Life is a series of challenges; they change, they morph, they ebb and they flow, but it is always a series. I couldn't be happier about every inch of my life. This reminds me: I may need to change the change I made back in '03, as there is such a thing as happy.

Kathy LaFollett resides on the shore of Tampa Bay in Clearwater, FL, successfully negotiating life with the help of her Husband and two children. A political activist as well as owner of, she has been writing about the familiar human experience for the last 15 years. She enjoys the solitude of a day at the beach, embraces the challenge of diverse thoughts in a conversation, and the success of making a dinner reservation rather than dinner itself. Her success is measured by the joy found in the eyes of her family. Website:

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Robert Tribble

The Doctor Will See You

"The doctor will see you soon"
The nurse's definition of "soon" I realize is elastic
But the words soothe the beast in me
To the point where I wait in a state
Of numbness while the reception room video
Spews out raucous ads for nostrums
Calculated to make drug makers
Rich and me poor.

More papers to sign. Again the magic phrase,
"The doctor will be with you soon."
I try to improve my mind but
The magazine is one year old
I watch an old lady stroking
A man's shoulder and talking softly.
They both have heavy gnarled hands.
With thick heavy wedding bands.
I think of all the work those hands have done.

My name is called. I get weighed
And pushed into a treatment room.
Again: "The doctor will be in soon."
I put on the backward night gown.
And lie back on the table to ease my pain
The room is cold enough to refrigerate meat.

The doctor knocks before entering.
Which gives me time to look my sickest
He peers into my eye, trundles up my nostril
Whacks my knees, sticks his finger in my testicles
And says, "Turn your head and cough"
He mutters a few unintelligible syllables .
Writes a prescription and says, "Come back
In two weeks." I take the paper, a purchase
Order on bottled Nirvana for a fortnight.

R. Dean Tribble is a retired photographer and publicity writer who wrote his first poem at ten to advertise a square dance party. He was paid fifty cents. He has had acceptances at numerous magazines and recently published a book "Blue Flame, Selected Poems." He lives with his wife Bruna in the Mount Washington neighborhood of Los Angeles.

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Jane Seaton


There are arguments now being advanced for making cloning (and other high tech reproductive interventions) illegal.

As a formerly fertile female, who has completed her family and has taken a vow not to hassle her descendants to 'give me grandchildren', and having sailed through conception and pr…

Hold on a moment. Actually, I didn't sail through anything, but it's amazing how time and healthy little infants bawling their heads off and then expecting to be financed through college can dim your memory and your intellectual faculties.

The problem with a good many ethical debates is that time, and the need to get comfortable with yourself, act like huge fast-moving erasers, deleting personal experience.

So maybe it's just as well the Pope is an unmarried man after all. He may be out of touch, but at least he's watching from the sidelines.

Before I started demonstrating that childbirth, let alone child-raising, takes the edge off your brain, I was making a point, wasn't I? People are saying that human embryos shouldn't be cloned with a view to implantation because it may lead to the birth of an individual whose health is compromised. The process of implantating and stabilising a pregnancy can also threaten the health of the mother (and egg harvesting is not a risk free procedure, if we're looking at good old everyday IVF, rather than cloning). However much we desire the good outcome, we, or society, are to varying degrees too appalled by the downside, and too unprepared, practically and philosophically, to cope with it. It's risky. Therefore, it cannot be allowed.

I have a theory. By the year 2100, all babies will, as a medical necessity, be delivered by Caesarean section. Why? Well, it's all about natural selection. A mother who can't deliver a live baby doesn't pass on her genes. Yet, at the point where Caesarean delivery became a routine possibility, a quite significant proportion of mothers required that life-saving measure for either themselves or their babies. Merely killing off structurally incompetent mothers didn't stop replacements turning up year after year. That suggests to me that there is an inbuilt tendency in the human population for non-Caesarean-dependent mothers to produce Caesarean-dependent daughters (maybe because the undesirable genetic traits sneak through, undetected, in narrow-hipped sons and fathers). In the past, in each generation, such daughters were stripped out and thrown on the evolutionary scrap heap. These days, they are being produced and stockpiled.

So people should stop accusing obstetricians of carrying out unnecessary Caesareans just for fun. The rate of such deliveries must be expected to increase year on year. Ladies, whatever the society-wide risk of needing a Caesarean section was when you gave birth, your daughter faces that risk and more.

No wonder medical insurance is getting more expensive - not only is reproduction dangerous to mother and child, but its natural tendency is to become more dangerous, rather than less, as a result of technology.

Leaving aside the 'high tech' issue of obstetricians with knives and restaurant reservations, there are many ways in which current 'normal' reproduction threatens the health of its participants.

For a start, married women in the United Kingdom are less healthy than their single contemporaries.

If you don't use a reputable clinic to provide you with well-screened gametes, you're leaving yourself open to all kinds of nasty infections the moment you have conception-friendly sex. Don't narrow your monogamous eyes at me, because even the most faithful intimacy between married couples can attract an annoying yeast infection from time to time.

Mismatched blood groups, and too-well-matched recessive genes can kill and disable.

Pregnancy and vaginal delivery can lead to all kinds of mechanical damage.

Fighting heroically to preserve premature infants sadly saves children who are more at risk of health problems in the long term than their forty-week playmates.

And on top of all that, even if 'mother and baby are doing fine', it remains the case that unassisted reproduction is just about the only human activity where an almost total lack of control over the long term outcome is somehow considered a moral plus point.

Would you run a business on that basis?

So, for the moment, IVF is less successful, and easy, and cheap, than natural conception. Cloned animals allowed to develop to maturity (so far, all non-human) are less healthy than their un-cloned fellows, but it's only a matter of less and more. There are no absolutes. Natural reproduction, for all its joys and rewards, is not always safe, or easy, or even possible, and the perception which has developed during the last century - that it is safe, and then that it is available, or preventable, 24/7 - is merely the consequence of reproduction's increasing un-naturalness.

Christian faith (the only faith from which I can speak) calls one to confront reality, to befriend the outsider, to forgive the enemy, and to encounter the divine. It tells us not to reserve our resources in expectation of a rainy day, but to splurge on celebrating the divine, however frail, naked and hungry and troublesome he may be when he arrives at the party. Risk should be acknowledged, and managed (I'm an accountant, I can't help it), but it is not an argument for not living, and giving, life to the full.

Jane Seaton is a 46 year old English lay preacher and Chartered Accountant. She is the Religion Editor for the Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society.

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Allison Burnett

I Was Stalked on

A screenwriter-turned-first novelist let his good customer feedback go to his head. So there was only one option when someone started campaigning against his book on the site: Fight back.

I began that day as all serious authors begin their days: I brewed some coffee then lunged at the computer to check my sales rank. Since the publication of my first novel, Christopher, a few months before, I had become increasingly hooked on the online bookseller's sales data, updated hourly, to tell me how my book was doing. And it wasn't just practical sales information; Amazon customer reviews had also proved a steady source of ego gratification. That morning, however, I wished I had stayed in bed and watched Regis.

While my sales rank was still excellent, a new review had been posted overnight by someone named "Jack G." It began, "This is one of the most insipid books I've ever read," and ended, "I will say that Burnett must be a nice guy because otherwise how would he have gotten so many friends to write glowing reviews for this piece of tripe?" In between lay a minefield of deadly adjectives: "clichéd," "phony," "unimaginative," "underdeveloped."

Anyone can leave a review on Amazon and he can leave it under any name he chooses. Each reviewer also rates the book from one to five stars. These reviews, on the face of them, should mean next to nothing. After all, most of us have only a few friends whose taste we implicitly trust. Why, then, should we trust the taste of perfect strangers? Yet many of us do. Rarely does a book with consistently mediocre customer reviews post good sales, and vice-versa.

Although I knew that this one bad review was not going to hurt my book and that it was foolish to let it get to me, I was shaken by Jack's attack. Until then, Christopher had received 20 customers' reviews, all of them five-star. The dozen mainstream reviews, including a full page in the Los Angeles Times' Sunday Book Review, had been universally wonderful. No one had ever hated my book before. Not to my face. It hurt.

The only way of commenting on a review is to click either "Helpful" or "Not Helpful" in a box above it. I clicked "Not Helpful" above Jack's, then, to ease my anxiety and to inspire, perhaps, a groundswell of righteous indignation among the wise and the just, I forwarded his review to 200 of my closest friends. The next morning I awoke to find that two readers had joined me in clicking "Not Helpful" atop Jack's review. I breathed easy. The tide was clearly turning.

Or was it? Evidently, Jack was exquisitely sensitive, because he struck back the very next day, charging in a new one-star review that "Allison Burnett obviously has a mafia of people ready to attack anyone who doesn't like his crummy book." I had to laugh. A wee cabal, maybe. But a mafia? This was no joke, however, not to the Rumsfeldian Mr. G.

Whether the Blitzkrieg that followed was the work of Jack alone, using a host of aliases, or of a coalition of the willing, I'll never know. What I do know is that no one involved was a signatory to the Geneva Conventions. Their one-star bombs were nasty and relentless-landing at a rate of five a day. My characters were undeveloped, my structure sloppy, my prose trite. There were complaints of money and time wasted and of friends never again to be trusted. Some hated the book so much they were forced to put it down. One argued that Christopher was, in fact, "too dull to hate." And each review was headlined in bold capital letters-things like "SUCH A DISAPPOINTMENT" and "YAWN!" And, to make matters worse, above each bad review was a landslide of endorsements: "18 of 18 people found the following review helpful." And above the old, positive reviews the numbers had changed overnight: "20 of 68 people found the following review helpful." Within a few days Christopher's review average had fallen to a mediocre three stars. I was outraged.

"It's a rotten bit of cyber-lynching," I wrote in my desperate letter to Amazon. "Please pay special attention to the fact that the negative reviews all come in bunches, all are quick and abbreviated, and many use identical words and phrases... Half of them claimed to have 'skim read' or 'not finished' the book - a good cover if you have, in fact, not read it at all. I am trying to be mature about this, and write it off as one of the dark sides of the Internet, which is that there is no system to police credibility, but the book's sales are suffering. Help!"

Meanwhile, I racked my brains trying to figure out who was behind the conspiracy. Was Jack G. his real name? Maybe Jack G. was a woman. One night, unable to sleep, I made a list of my enemies - no easy task in Hollywood, where the central difference between an enemy and a friend is that when you bump into your enemy he greets you more warmly. In the end, I decided that it was either my ex-friend, Danny, an amoral hedge fund manager who had once been sued for message board libel, or my mother, retaliating for the Medusa-like mother in my book. (Any striking similarity between the two is purely coincidental.)

After a week, I had yet to hear back from Amazon, and the attacks were not letting up. More than a few times friends told me that I should hold myself above the fray, and I knew they were right, but I also knew that Jack G. was inflicting real damage to my book's sales. Christopher is a paperback original, the syphilitic runaway cousin to the adult trade hardcover. With no ad support of any kind, it had somehow managed to sell well. Its Amazon sales rank had peaked at an incredible 1,200 and had never fallen below a respectable 10,000. But how long could it withstand the critical onslaught?

In the end, Amazon agreed that there was, indeed, a "campaign" afoot. The next day, they removed all the offending posts. Two weeks later, the company's computers finally caught up and restored Christopher's five-star average. But the harm had been done, and it was permanent. The book's sales rank had fallen to 30,000, never to rise again.

Happily, I learned from my mistake. These days, I check Amazon every other day. As for Jack G., he or she reappears only occasionally. He uses different names, of course, but he still uses the same stock phrases and insults. Recently, he posted a review that said, "I am sorry to say that this is one of the most worst novels I've read in some time," but then, as a sort of olive branch, or perhaps just a wink, he gave the book two stars.

Christopher was just picked as a Finalist for the 2004 PEN Center USA Literary Award in Fiction. Allison Burnett is a Los Angeles-based writer and film director. You can buy Christopher at, well, Mr. Burnett's website is at This essay originally appeared at

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Ginger Mayerson and Laurel Sutton

An Interview with Keith Knight

Editors Mayerson and Sutton met Mr. Knight at Comic-con last July. He graciously consented to this email interview. Keith's comic strip, The K Chronicles, is at and he also has a weblog at, so you can know when and where he's appearing, rapping, or having knee surgery.

Background and art

Ginger Mayerson: What do you feel are the most important aspects and events in your development as an artist and a syndicated cartoonist?

Keith Knight: First was discovering these different artists: Charles Schultz, Jules Feiffer, Mad Magazine, Garry Trudeau, Berke Breathed and Bill Watterson.

Second was moving to San Francisco in 1990 and getting a huge dose of the underground comix scene. It was very instrumental in my development as an artist. I found out I could tackle all sorts of heavy issues using a larger format strip that I hadn't seen a lot of growing up in Massachusetts. Politics. Sex. Drugs. Rock and Roll. After that I realized that I didn't have to go the daily comic strip route.

GM: Are there any strips or cartoonists that you read purely for your own pleasure? If so, what is attractive to you in those strips or art?

KK: I love reading autobio stuff as long as it isn't cynical urban white guy comix. There's waaay too much of that out there.

Lessee... if come across a daily paper, I'll read Aaron Macgruder's Boondocks (the best of the new generation), Garry Trudeau's Doonesbury (huge influence, great guy), Zits (funny and well-drawn), Rose is Rose (incredible art!), Luann(?), For Better or Worse (like a good, old friend)..underground/independents: Gabrielle Belle (funny, droll, n.y.c. autobio), Tom Beland's True Story: Swear to God (extremely touching, well drawn romance comic), Kieron Dwyer's LCD (tastelessly hilarious stuff) Grickle, Craig Thompson's stuff (beautiful art, touching stories)

Laurel Sutton: What do you read for pleasure - fiction, non-fiction? What was the last novel you read?

KK: The last two books I read were Craig Thompson's graphic novel "blankets" and a book called "Peops" by nyc artist Fly. "Diary of a Teenage Girl" by Phoebe Gloekner.

LS: How has the exposure on affected your career (if it has)?

KK: Salon has given me worldwide recognition. The guy who started it, David Talbot, was my editor at the San Francisco Examiner. He asked me if I was interested in being a part of this online magazine he was starting up. The rest is history.

A whole lotta exposure. Not a whole lotta money.

LS: What inspired you to start drawing "(th)ink"? How is it different from the "K Chronicles" (besides the format)?

KK: (th)ink was started after I was approached by to do a weekly strip for them. I wanted to do something completely different from the K Chronicles, so I decided to do a single panel.

Unlike the K Chronicles, (th)ink is not autobiographical. It mostly deals with political and social issues concerning communities of color. It's a challenge to work in both formats week after week.

LS: Are you a musician who draws comics, or an artist who performs in a band?

KK: I am a cartoonist who performs in a band.

LS: What did you have for dinner last night?

KK: Tilapia (fish). Couscous. Salad.


GM: I feel these are scary times to speak out. Do you feel there is a lot of self-censorship among your fellow cartoonists and what, other than more irony in response to official and unofficial censorship, can be done about it and/or for the cartoonist?

KK: I don't think there is any self-censorship amongst my peers (weekly, alternative cartoonists). I'm not sure if that's the case amongst daily cartoonists.

GM: How much abuse, including what kinds of violent threats, do you get for your art? Does one topic (say, Bush et al) draw more ire than another (say, race)?

KK: Lessee. I've received racist literature. I've gotten death threats from gun nuts. I got a lot of flak for my strips following Sept. 11th. I did one that opened with, "I was smoking crack with God the other day.."

But I've gotten about 50 times more positive mail than negative mail. Folks have sent me pot, pornography, and avocadoes.

GM: Do you have any idea what GW Bush's appeal is?

KK: Dubya is the kind of guy a lot of folks could sit down and have a beer with. I wouldn't want to, but I think a lot of folks would.

I also think it's the name. I'm sure a lot of folks thought the country would save a lot of money by reusing all the stationery left over from the first Bush administration.

GM: What do you feel is the biggest danger facing the people of the US right now and what can be done about it?

KK: The biggest danger facing the U.S. right now is ignorance. Ignorance and apathy. This administration is screwing this country over for years and years to come and so many people have the attitude that it is treasonous to disagree with our government's shady-assed behavior. It's absurd. People are slowly waking up, though.

GM: This is the most politicized era in mainstream sequential art I can remember. How much worse do you think things will get politically and in the media before they get better and why are we living in times where there is more truth in a comic strip than the six o'clock news?

KK: Mainstream media is chock-full of corporate cowards. They feel it's better to play along with the government and get access and ratings than to inform the populace.

It'll only get better once Bush is out of office. And that'll come in 2004., but it ain't gonna be easy. I cringe thinking about all the stuff his folks are gonna try to get him re-(s)elected.

LS: Before the next election, what personal freedom will the Bush administration try to take away next? Is John Ashcroft really Caligula?

KK: Even Republicans are getting sick of Ashcroft. The guy is out of control. I'm sure I'm on his list

GM: What issues do you think will be crucial in the 2004 Presidential election? What issues do you think *should* be crucial in the 2004 Presidential election?

KK: I don't think the economy can be ignored, although Bush will try his best to do that. And of course, who will be able to keep America safe. Wesley Clark has got the Republicans sweatin' bullets.

The focus SHOULD be the economy, healthcare and education. That's gonna protect the American people more than bombing Iraq.

GM: I feel that we need a Martin Luther King, Jr. to rally us to save ourselves from the Bush administration. Do you think this might be true and, if so, where and how is this person going to come to the forefront? If you think we're never going to see another Dr. King or even the spirit of those times, why is that and is there any cure for it?

KK: I certainly don't believe a new MLK is gonna rise up over the next year and a half and save us from the Bush administration. He'll be out of our hair soon, but the residual effects are gonna last a long, long time.

The culture at large works against there being another MLK. People are too worried about themselves, now.


GM: Many of your strips deal with violence - against minorities, women, poor people. Do you think society is getting more violent, or are we just more sensitive to it? What do you think about violence in Hollywood movies? Does a movie like "Bad Boys 2" give Black people an equal opportunity for Hollywood violence?

KK: No. I don't think society is any more violent than it's ever been. It's just that it gets more hype nowadays. But we've always been a violent society. The crucifixion, roman gladiators, beheadings, the death penalty, wars, lynchings…

Some violence in movies is fun, crucial to the story, very effective. Other violence is gratuitous, damaging, and in poor taste. Like every other aspect of the movies…

"Bad Boys 2" was made by white people. Movies like this allow a select few black people to participate in big, horrible, and expensive drivel…just like white people…

GM: You often address the ways in which Black and white culture clash. Do you feel that naïve and/or cruel white people are reinforcing the worst stereotypes of Black culture for fun and profit? And even though certain Black artists might be laughing all the way to the bank, how is this negative presentation of Black, usually male, culture affecting the rest of the culture and what can be done about this?

KK: I don't think it's just cruel and naïve white people. I think ALL types of people exploit black culture for fun and profit. It's a culture that is rich in art and history and ripe for exploitation.

I think the negative effect that it has on American culture is that it limits what is expected of black men in society today. If you can't rap or play sports, essentially entertaining white people, you're either going to jail or going into the army. That's it. How many scientists, doctors, cops, inventors, and professors are we tossing away?

"K Chronicles"

GM: How long do you foresee yourself voluntarily drawing this strip?

KK: I didn't think I'd be doing it for ten years. that's for sure. But now I'm really starting to appreciate what the strip allows me to do. I carved a little niche out for myself and I'm gonna hang out here for as long as I am allowed to.

I asked Matt Groening once, "Why do you still draw "Life in Hell" after all these years? " With the success of "The Simpsons", he doesn't have to do anything for a hundred lifetimes.

He said he still does it because with everything else he works on, he has to deal with all these execs, and producers and censors, etc…his weekly strip is the only thing he does where it's just him and nobody else.

It was a great answer.

LS: Do your fans have a hard time realizing that not everything in this strip happens to you in real life?

KK: No. I don't think so. I think people understand that if it was just like real-life, it'd be boring as hell.

LS: How does your family feel about being included in the strip?

KK: I think they enjoy it. They understand it's all about the love. My wife is still getting used to it, though..

GM: What themes do you feel you can never explore in your art and why is that?

KK: I won't ever get too personal with something that's happened in my family. Something that I know would hurt them if I did something about it.

I don't know, though. I've questioned the existence of God. Smoked crack with Him. Offered a man, who was dating my mom, a condom. I've dealt with my cousin dying of cancer. I've done suicide. Pedophilia…I've done a lot of stuff..

Last question: Why isn't that naked picture of you up at your website?

KK: My wife would get pissed!!

GM and LS: Thank you!

Ginger Mayerson is a Los Angeles based composer and author. Laurel Sutton is a Bay Area branding and naming entrepreneur. They are both editors for the Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society.

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This work is copyright © 2004 by Lincoln Heights Literary Society, Los Angeles, California. Copyrights for the individual articles are held by their respective author(s).

06 05 04 03     4 3 2 1

Look for Issue 5 this Winter.

Issue 5 Preview:

"A lot of on-line comics have very involved storylines, and even though the archive is online, it is faster to flip open a book and read than plow through an electronic archive." An interview with David Allen of Plan 9 Publishing

Issue 6 Preview:

"Anyone who has kids knows the answer: It's nature. Nurture isn't even in second place. Parents can of course have a negative impact, in obvious ways, but everything else is cellular. My daughters are amazing adults and I love them without reserve, but that's not because of anything I did. Oh, wait, I made sure they listened to lots of Van Morrison." An interview with Jon Carroll, San Francisco Chronicle columnist

Issue 7 Preview:

"It sounds good, but like lots of those clever sayings, it probably bottoms out in practice. And yes, I think approximately 48.25% of us deserve the current administration. An interview with Mike Nelson of Mystery Science 3000

Previous issues

Well, we can start telling gay men that they don't exist in an alternate moral universe, where anything that a gay man wants to do in the sack, however self- or other-destructive, is his right. An Interview with Dan Savage

I'm a lifelong journalist. I think everyone is immoral. An Interview with John Bloom

I'm just white-knuckling it with the muse. An Interview with Brooke McEldowney

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