Billy Collins Birthday

It’s the birthday of American poet Billy Collins (1941) who once said, “While the novelist is banging on his typewriter, the poet is watching a fly in the window pane.” Collins is widely considered the most popular poet in America.

Billy Collins grew up in Queens. His mother was a nurse who could recite verse on numerous subjects, and his father was an electrician who used to bring home copies of Poetry Magazine. Collins was a focused and voracious reader, tackling Compton’s Encyclopedia at the age of four before moving on to books like Black Beauty, The Yearling, and the Lassie series. His mother read to him often, and, Collins says: “I have a secret theory that people who are addicted to reading are almost trying to re-create the joy, the comfortable joy of being read to as a child by a parent or a friendly uncle or an older sibling. Being read to as a child is one of the great experiences in life.”

Collins never attended a writing program, or took writing workshops, though he did meet poet Robert Frost when Frost visited his class at Holy Cross College. The students were shy, though, so Frost spent most of the evening talking to the Jesuits. Collins remembers mostly staring into his soup. He published his first poems in the back of Rolling Stone magazine. They paid $35.00 a poem. He didn’t publish his first book until he was 40 years old. He said, “I thought I would be completely content if I was recognized at some later point in my life as a third-rate Wallace Stevens.”

Billy Collins uses a Uni-Ball Onyx Micropoint pen in 9 x 7 notebooks to draft his poems before typing them out. When he thinks he might have enough for a book, he puts all the pages on the floor and walks on top of them in his stocking feet, trying to figure out the order. He revises his work carefully, he says, because, “Revision can grind a good impulse to dust.”

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This is a good one.

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Carl Hiaasen

It’s the birthday of American crime novelist and journalist Carl Hiaasen (1953), best known for novels like Tourist Season (1986), Strip Tease (1993), and Sick Puppy (2000), which feature Floridian eco-warriors, corrupt politicians, and shady ladies. About his cavalcade of morally bankrupt characters, Hiaasen once said, “Sometimes people are attracted to the wrong kind of people for the right kind of reasons.” He’s particularly fond of the character of Skink, who shows up in several books, and whom Hiaasen once described as “a totally unhinged, roadkill-eating ex-governor.”

Hiaasen was born in Plantation, Florida. When he was six, his father bought him a typewriter, and he hasn’t stopped writing ever since. He spent two years as a reporter at Cocoa Today in Florida (1976), before moving to the Miami Herald, where he found a lot of inspiration for his novels while working the city desk and on investigative teams. His newspaper columns are collected in Kick Ass (1999) and Dance of the Reptiles (2014). Hiaasen used to play guitar in Stephen King’s band Rock Bottom Remainders, and even wrote and recorded songs with the late musician Warren Zevon.

Carl Hiaasen’s latest novel is Razor Girl (2016), which opens with car accident caused by a female driver who becomes distracted while grooming her bikini line. Hiaasen based it on a true Florida story.

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Dan Rather Writes


 Just Posted DEVASTATING Warning About Trump, “We Have An Administration In Free Fall”

Rather writes:

At some points words fail, or they are starting to fail me. We have an Administration in freefall. Have we passed through the circle of chaos? Are we at the circle of havoc?

The real Donald Trump has stood up, once again. Let no one ever be fooled. Let there be no doubt. The man who sends out a twitter tirade accusing a former President of crimes for which he provides no evidence, the man who doubles down when everyone with any sense pushes back, that man is our Commander in Chief. Everyone who normalizes Mr. Trump now, or has in the past, will have to answer to future generations for their acquiescence, silence or sophistry—if, indeed, not outright cowardice.

How hollow do all those pundit plaudits (including from many progressives) sound now for an average and disingenuous speech of someone else’s words read from a teleprompter to Congress and the nation a week ago? A “presidential” Trump is a punchline to a joke no one wants to have told. Conspiracy theories are corrosive in society at large. When they dictate national policy, they can be lethal.

This is a man who challenged the citizenship of President Obama, with lies, innuendo, and no evidence. This is a man who claimed widespread voter fraud with lies, innuendo, and no evidence. This is a man who has taken a rhetorical blowtorch to our Constitutional principles with lies, innuendo, and no evidence. Those who rose in Congress to applaud his turns of phrase bear responsibility. Those who cynically use his presidency to push forward unpopular giveaways to the rich and well connected bear responsibility. Those in the press who meet insults with explanations bear responsibility.

Even the most grounded of presidents must fight to keep themselves moored to the real world. The Oval Office can be a bubble. Power attracts sycophants and cynics. But I have never seen anything like this. The sheer level of paranoia that is radiating out of the White House is untenable to the workings of a republic. I have a real question if President Trump actually believes what he is saying. Even Richard Nixon, the most paranoid president to date, ruled for years with a relatively calm hand. This Administration has been an off kilter whirlwind since the inauguration, and news reports suggest that seething anger from Mr. Trump is only getting worse. There is a growing consensus that the President may be “unhinged.” It’s a serious allegation, but even if it is not the case, Mr. Trump only has himself to blame.

To call a drama Shakespearean or operatic is usually an overreach. But I imagine artists of the future, and even the present, will find ample inspiration in our moment in history. Doesn’t Steve Bannon strike you as an Iago whispering in the ear of an Othello-like Trump, consumed by jealousy and paranoia?

As the questions mount around Russia, as the circles of defense begin to falter, the determination to create diversions will escalate. But if the President hoped he could create a distraction, I think he misjudged the will of the American people. We have woken. We are paying attention. And we love our country too much to let it falter without a fight.

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Dalai Lama

Taken From Writer’s Almanac:

On this day in 1959, 300,000 Tibetans surrounded the Dalai Lama’s palace in an uprising to protest China’s nearly decade-long occupation. The Dalai Lama had been invited by China to attend a theatrical performance in Beijing, but suspicions grew when China requested that the holy leader travel without his usual bodyguards. Fearing his abduction, a wall of protesters kept him at the palace. Despite their efforts, he had to be evacuated to India a short time later. Following his departure, tens of thousands of Tibetan rebels – men, women, and children – were killed on-site by Chinese military. Monasteries were destroyed, and the Dalai Lama’s remaining guards were executed. Many who remained followed the Dalai Lama to India, where he has since established a government-in-exile in the Himalayan mountains.

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The Bitch From Borlänge – Chapter 13

The Bitch From Borlänge – Chapter 13

I’m minding my own business and sipping this god-awful Kat beer when I hear a “Woof!”  It sounds almost familiar. Who? Another hound here at the Fatal Feline? Kats all have their backs up now, expecting trouble—a possible pack attack. Things like that happen in Rosengård—critters get hurt.

A dogwater fog precedes the new arrival. “Ellie, babe—my love. You’re back—my gift from heaven.”

OMG. It’s Pug, the boxer. He was a contender and we used to run around when I was younger. He was semi-famous then, but after loosing a match with Jerry The Pit, he got into the dogwater. I was never really that interested, to tell you the truth, but he was crazy about me. He can be harder to get rid of than a Tasmanian flea, but whatever. Deal with it, I tell myself.

“Hej, Pug. What’s up? Do you hang out here? Want my Kat beer?”

“Nah. I don’t drink Kat. It turns your liver yellow. Ellie, I’m so glad to see you. Saint Bernard has brought us back together, after all this time.”

Pug’s Irish and a Katholic. “Beauty changes. I’m just passing through,” I tell him.

“No you’re not. You’re on somebody’s tail.”

“And how would you know that?”

“I get around.” He jumps up to my table—almost loses balance before sitting down across from me.  “Smooth knows you’re here,” he sez.

“I’m sure he does. We had a brief encounter.”

“He’s been running with Willie The Rat,” Pug snarls. “Police dogs have been after him, but he is hard to find. A master of disguises. and escape. A New York hip hop group, The Lab Rats, wrote a song about him.

Willie the rat

Was a slippery Kat

And escaped from the F.B.I.

With change in his pocket

And a golden locket

In a slice of apple pie.


“Thanks for sharing,” I yawn. “Anything else?”

There’s a big reward out for him. What can you get for catching Smoothy?”

“More than enough.” I turn to look outside, see nothing but a poodle who looks lost.

“Why don’t you let me help you get him, Ellie? There’s a couple things you need to know. Let’s get a real drink while we talk about it. There’s a place I like, ‘Dog Water Hole,’ they call it.” I was on my way there when I saw you in the window.”

“I already knew the things you’ve told me—other than the Lab Rats. And I know Smoothy knows I know he’s here.”

“But he doesn’t know you know what I know. If he knew you knew the things I know it could work against you if you didn’t know—which you don’t. . . .”

Conversations with Pug were always a bit confusing. “So then, tell me.”

“Need a drink first,” Pug says. Dogwater helps my memory.”

“Some other time. I’m waiting for a friend.”

“A lover I suppose. Are you in heat?”

“I am the heat,” I bark at him. “And working on a case—alone, like always.”

“Well, okay then.” Pug flops off the table. “I’ll on my way. But there are things you need to know—important things. I’ve never lied to you.”

That’s true. He isn’t smart enough to lie, or dumb enough. I take a quick glace out the window. Poodle’s gone. A light snow falling. No one to be seen on Pildamsparken where my rat hunt ended— Johanesgatan’s empty. Not a soul in sight, and Chief Johansson gave me Smoothy’s profile. ‘Moves in slow, and gets out fast.’ That’s his M.O. Guess I’ve got time.

“Okay. I’m good for just one drink to get your beer brain working, but it’s going to be a quick one,” I woof.

“Sure. Ten minutes . . . all I’m asking.

*               *             *

The Dog Water Hole is crowded. Mutts are yowling at a well trimmed poodle dancing on a table. There’s bloodhound . . . Erickson from the Dalarna Crime Team. What’s he doing here? I’m thinking. He ignores me and I do him the same favor. Probably working on an unrelated case—I hope.

We find a place next to a pair of rough looking Main Coons who seem fascinated by a game of Kateract they’re showing on TV. I never understood the game myself—a lot of snack tossing and balloon popping.

Pug goes for drinks and comes back three times with a plate of ribs first, and then with two large bowls of dogwater. “I can’t drink all of this,” I tell him.

“Never mind. I’ll help you.”

“Great. Now tell me what you know that might be worth my time.”

“They know you’re here.”

“I know they know.” God, here we go again.

“Smooth said he’d pay for any information on your whereabouts. He’s keeping tabs on you. Hey, that’s almost a pun or something—get it? Tabs, like tabby.”

“Right. You’re almost half a wit,” I tell him. “So, who’s everybody?”

“I don’t know. I’d had a couple drinks at the Katacombs— a day and night club. It was crowded, lots of kats, a Bulldog they call Snot and, let me think. A couple possums, and some stray kats. Everybody heard the offer.”

“All he has to do to find me is to stand still. Is that it?”

“There’s more,” he sez. The Jackal’s in town.”

“The Jackal? Oj! I thought he was in Gotterdammen.”

“Not this week. He’s after a something. He knows Smooth is loaded—bank account in Kathmandu. Big bucks . . . and the rewards that have been offered by the cops.”

“It could be anything. Whatever. Look, I’ve got to run.

“No. Wait,” Pug whines.

I leap down off of the table with Brazilian grace, and out the door before he has another chance to protest. Spent more time than I had meant to. Maybe worth it. Good to know about the Jackal—bad dawg, bounty hunter. Off his leash in my opinion. What’s he up to?



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Telegram From Ellie

OMG! I did it again!


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