Saturday, December 31, 2016

MoHurley's Amazon Book Reviews 2016

I began writing Amazon Reviews in 2013 after reading a Kindle ebook that was so awful, I was distraught. My cousin suggested that I write an Amazon Review. And so I did. I'm over a hundred reviews, total. I haven't written many reviews this year. My goal was a minimum of 25 reviews, I got 24 done; the last one didn't make the midnight cutoff date.

It takes considerable time and thought to write (and rewrite) reviews. I don't take the process lightly. I look for a believable plot, good storyline, and figurative language that doesn't intrude, and subtle intellect. Novels stem from the oral tradition. They should entertain (as well as enlighten). It's not all about the escape fiction part.

Unfortunately many reviews are viewed as a popularity contest. Not. It is my hope that some authors will take the time to correct their typos and upload revised books so that we all benefit. Hey, free copy editing! 

Unfortunately, negative reviews also garner a lot of negative points. Please mosey on over and LIKE some of my reviews. Amazon's all about Like, just like LIKE on Facebook. Except, like, the buttons are, like, different.

My older reviews are buried deep. So I tried to include the direct links whenever possible here as well. Go to MoHurley's Amazon Reviews click on the comments section under my review and that will take you to the review where you can like it.


MoHurley's Amazon Book Reviews 2016
MoHurley's Amazon Book Reviews 2015
My Amazon Book Reviews 2014
My Amazon Book Reviews 2013

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Scanning crusades 2014-2016, and beyond

Two years ago, as we began to clear out my grandmother's house, which was my home for the first 24 years of my life,  in order to sell it, I was heartbroken. So much memorabilia. Memory loosened by random bits of paper. And things. I expected to write lots, because, well, unearthing the past... Instead, I was numb. Profoundly depressed. Useless.

So I collected small trinkets from my childhood, and began to create archives. Then, in order to save them, I began a scanning project. It started out small. The first year I scanned old family photos, then I created a large family photo archive on Dropbox. It's now a monster folder pushing seven gigabytes. But the entire extended family now has access to those photos. (Except for the stolen ones.)

I scanned a fair amount of odd flotsam and memorabilia from that era as well (still lots more to do). Some of the detritus of the past found its way to my blog by way of illustration. My story on Christian Burkhardt: Almost Amish, for example. 

Some of it gave credence to old memories that I've transcribed in this blog. Biggest mindblower was finding a photo of my mother and Lloyd Bridges for The Student Prince at Sacramento's Music Circus. I wrote a blog piece about Lloyd in Guys and Dolls.

This year, I focused primarily on scanning my own extensive travel photos, I am nearly done scanning them (I just finished scanning the USSR—monstrous pile o pix), and will add some photos to this blog when I process them.

I began scanning chronologically with photos from the 1970s. Of course, as I scanned photos, I began to remember all the missing ones. Sometimes I'd get lucky. Somebody would unearth a photo from a lost era. See, I was the family chronicler. All events and parties, I was behind the camera recording, recording. Now scanning.

Still to do are all my black and white negatives from the 1980s and 1990s, but I need a good film scanner for that project. Since they are mostly of poets, I've been in conversation with Carolyn Forché who was my mentor at the Napa Valley Poetry conferences in the early 1980s, to bring them into the digital age. Her husband, Harry Matthison, too is culling and scanning his extensive archive of photos from when he was a war photographer-correspondent with Magnum. At least he'll get four coffee table books for his efforst. I still don't have a forever home for most of my work.

Carolyn asked how we can fund these photo archives. I thought the National Endowment for the Humanities might be a place to start. I need to create a GoFundMe account to raise enough money to get the scanner I need. And look into a grant to fund my time. On the 2017 To Do List.

This year, I've also been also scanning my paper/poetry archives, and fluffing up this blog with old poems and memorabilia. (I'm up to 2002 published posts! Nearly 1k posts added this year.)

As I rounded out the blog posts for the early years (1980s-1990s), it became a numbers game. Did I have enough strong work from the old days to bump up my meager collection of posts from the 1980s—before computers! It's strange to relive the past via poetry, but now it's a timeline of sorts. Prepping for the Alzheimer daze...

My goal is to post 52 blog pieces of writing a year. One for each week of the year. Every year. Seems reasonable. Most years I did not meet my minimum goal, so I lowered my standards to 25+ pieces a year. There was some fudging of numbers as I expanded my idea of what I wanted to include in this blog. Posters of readings, and poetry awards were added, for example. Some random doodles from my poetry journals. Letters. There will be letters.

A few of the old yearly collections do meet my arbitrary criteria of 52 posts per year. (PPY). Nearly all of them meet the 25+ PPY criteria (finally), and then some— but I still harbor hope to fluff up those anemic years.

Then, there are the years where I wonder what the fuck happened. I have not scanned all my old poetry journals, so the ranks still might swell. These years listed below are seriously in arrears. I have hope, but I'm also running out of material to scan. Letters and memorabilia from poets will swell the ranks somewhat. Letters. There will be letters. I already said that.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

What's in Hawthorne, NV, and why is it shaking and rolling?

December 28, 2016 at 3:21am
Two big 5.7 quakes (one upgraded to 5.8), and a 5.0, with several swarms, in Hawthorne, NV. So that's why I'm now wide awake... It seems something woke me around 12:45ish. I was in a deep sleep so it may have been earlier. And then I thought it was morning, time to get up. Must've been the bed shaking. Hawthorn, NV??? Can we even feel that in the Bay Area? Apparently so. Wow. What's in Hawthorne?

5.8   it took me a while to find the old USGS Did You Feel It? map. Which is invaluable to see where it was felt. I really wasn't imaging things. I do NOT like the new USGS website. The old one was much better. 

 I noticed there's an Aurora Crater right below Hawthorne. Hmmm? This was a volcano field. Hundreds of miles of them. The valley is a caldera. There are old ash cones all around the edges. Must be indigestion. Wait, the whole valley is a caldera? Not a sinkhole/playa? It was upgraded to 5.8. Aurora Crater is rumbling?

WTF is in Hawthorne, NV??? It's a sinkhole on the backside of the Sierras, between Walker Lake and Mono Lake, near Bodie, fergawdsakes... Not even on a faultline. I thought I was imagining things until someone posted it on FB. Well, the Sierras are still growing. Must be growing pains. One quake at Bridgeport too, that entire area above Mono Lake is loaded with geothermal activity. There are a whole bunch of little unnamed faults south of the basin, running east/west... two sets leading into Mono Lake.

There are quite a few unnamed east/west faults below it, near Mono Lake.

And of course, below Mono Lake is Long Valley, and Mammoth Caldera...maybe a new fault rupture to the Big Bulge. If Mammoth ever blows... It blows my mind that I felt the big quakes in Oakland. Sleep? What's that? 5.8, 5.7, 5.5, 5.3, 4.1, 4.0, ....more than 70 quakes between Hawthorne and Bridgeport. Talk about a swarm.

No faults are listed where the swarm is located, but the area is a vast volcanic field, and it's close enough to Mammoth to give pause... that whole area is riddled with geothermal activity. Yes, the Sierras are young mountains still growing, so it could be merely tectonic growing pains...

Joyce Simmons, who lives near there, said the epicenter was near Lucky Boy grade. The underground bomb tests used to set off swarms.

Geologist Garry Hayes said: Quakes are probably tectonic related rather than volcanic. First motion diagrams indicate strike-slip (lateral) motion. Sensation of shaking is stronger on surfaces underlain by sediments. People I know in the Sierra didn't feel anything while lots of folks in the Central Valley did.

Here's hoping it's not clandestine injection wells, or fracking related. Or underground bomb tests!

Can I please go back to sleep now, dear Earth?

Art has always been my first language

Art has always been my first language, grief-struck, after Tiananmen Square (a poet friend, Bei Dao, escaping to the west), all I could do was draw. I sat on the floor of CA Museum of Art (LBC, Santa Rosa—Marsha Connell and I were teaching an art class to kids), and I drew vast images of rows of trees, over and over. That was all I could do. That, or cry. And I couldn't do that in front of the kids. The trees became receptacles for my tears. A floodgate of leaves. Not words.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Stairways to hell

I've been laid up since the 17th as I managed to fall down two steps into Cormac's sunken living room, splitting the difference by folding my left ankle down to the next step and bending my right knee up at unnatural angles to hold the pose. A reindeer could've bolted between my bowed legs. 

But I had one more stair to navigate. Then, whump, I went down on my butt, hard—so freakin elegant. The edge of my outside boot caught on the steps (the sole split), as I was going down sideways. Facing forward, I would've been a real goner, or broke my nose (again). But I didn't spill my wine. Miracle of miracles.

The cardinal rule: always RICE right after you fall. I had some wine in me (anti-inflamatory agent), so I took Advil, and religiously iced my elevated ankle and knees the rest of the week.

I hate stairs. I have missed the bottom stair more than a few times.  I remember when I was somewhere between the ages of three and four, I took a tumble off the top of the stairs, and made it around the curve, only to have the home stretch open all the way down to the bottom, headfirst. The scenery jarring and bumping as my head hit each step. I was too surprised to cry. No one ever knew.

I did it once off a ladder, backwards, while painting a mural... A long step down, the jarring pain and lots of little bird stars tweeted in my head...

I won't mention the hikes, where stairs and I have parted company. How I ever made it over the Andes, with its thousands upon thousands of stairs for miles on end, was a major miracle. I was not so lucky on the glacial moraine on the Continental Divide.  My nose took a suckerpunch from a rock.

Another time Galway Kinnell called me on the phone to set up a reading, and I was so dazed, I walked out my front door, and promptly fell down my one front step. One step! Twisted my ankle but good. He wanted to know why I was whuffling like a buffalo.
One time I did the splitz down a long flight of attic stairs... My flip flops lost traction slipped, and down I went, like a grass toboggan ride. I had no idea I was that limber. Or that I could bend like that. 

Crotch rugburn was the least of my worries. I had to tie a bandana around my left knee to raise and lift it in order to shift the clutch—for a month....

Monday, December 26, 2016

Hard sauce

My grannie made fruitcake every year. She started early in the fall, assembling the fruit and nuts, gathered all the spices, then she made the glacé and candied the citron, assembled the batter, mixed and packed the cakes, and then steamed them for six hours (not baked). When it was cooled, the fruitcake was swaddled in cheesecloth like an infant, and required a weekly baptismal dressing in whiskey, up until it it was served, well aged, with real hard sauce, tea, and more whiskey in the hand. But I couldn't eat it. Eventually she quit making fruitcake. An old tradition that died hard. It was the Christmas ritual that mattered, not the cake. I wish I had been kinder as a child.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Drought-breaker Day

It's been raining so hard, you practically need a snorkel out there. Most of the roads in San Rafael, Richmond and Oakland are canals. It's beginning to look a bit like Holland. The underside of my car is very, very clean. As are my brakes. Squeaky clean. And they are also not working. Soft brakes is really upping the ante. But the show must go on. We’re singing for the elders at the San Rafael Whistlestop Christmas luncheon for Bread and Roses today. We’re braving the storm with duck feet and nae knickers. At least Neil is, as he’s wearing his kilt.

In San Rafael, the water is all the way up to 2nd Street ramp by noon, and the San Rafael exit, near the canal, was a duck's infinity pool. Water birds were churning all over the place. Seriously partying down. Luckily we veered to the left side of the exit, and drove on the shoulder as the water was up to the bridge, and was at least a foot deep on the roadbed. The force of the water slowed us down quick. No need for brakes.

Of course we were late for our carol performance at Whistlestop Wheels. But at least we had an excuse. The parking lot was under two inches of water, and my boots decided to split their soles at that moment. It was a packed house. They had to wait for us, as Neil was singing the finale, Auld Lang Syne, solo. We sang extra hard to make up for being late. It was almost toast for us just getting there.

Driving home was another adventure. Hwy 580 northbound to the Richmond Bridge was closed. Probably an accident. Luckily we're going the other way. In Richmond, the Gerrard exit was completely underwater at 4 PM. One guy drove down the meridian to avoid the puddle. More like a pond or inland sea by the train tracks, reminding us this was all once marshlands. Kind of exciting at Golden Gate Fields/Gilman exit too. There were actual waves surging across the intersection. I swear I saw Nessie frolicking by the racetrack.

I think the drought has been thoroughly trounced. All that praying for rain is ganging up on us. Now we're dancing and praying just to get to the car without drowning. And Yahoo Weather must be seriously out of practice, as it predicted ZERO chance of rain today. And to think it was sunny this AM. Right.

It's a deluge, practically Biblical. The epicenter seems to be south of here. In San Jose, of all places. It just got a half a year’s worth if rain all at once. Flash flood warnings for the entire Bay Area, and massive flooding inland. The Sacramento has stormed its banks, ditto that with the Truckee. Some places got 7-8 inches of rain all at once. More than a cloudburst. Yes, the Truckee has leaped its banks too. We’re talking rain falling in biblical proportions—falling on the snowpack! The Pineapple Express has arrived decked up in full monsoon garb. Literally sheets of rain. There goes the snowpack, which means, pradoxically, we'll be back in drought mode, come summer.

Oh, and my new camera died today—a good soaking did not improve things. A lens malfunction—it's not even a year old. Ditto that with the one it replaced. I’m having a serious run of bad luck with short-lived cameras. But I do love the quality of the Panasonic Leica lens. And so I can’t even take photos. I used to cry when my cameras died, so much of my identity is tied up with cameras. an extension of my eye, but it’s how I process things, really. Still, a camera a year?

So I’m bearing witness with words today. Tears would only add to the flood. And to boot, my clutch is failing. Every time we have to stop, I wonder if it's gonna be the end. (We later swing by Mike’s Garage. Car is fixed, it’s not the clutch, but a leak in the hydraulic system. Next time, check the fluids.) The camera, however, is toast. Four years of praying for rain is catching up on us all at once. I guess the drought is officially over for a while. At least in the Bay Area. But tonight there's the full moon and the king tides....

rev 1/22/2017, and 2020
from a Facebook post.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Power outage

Power's out, rain, rain, and more rain. And now Neil's babbling on about generators and St Mirren's soccer score. He's not handling being cut off from the internet very well. I made soup and cornbread.  Thank God for gas stoves. At least you can carry on. The power used to go out often in Forest Knolls, so I just went into hillbilly survival mode. Break out the candles, booze, and food. After  hours of no juice, we're back online. The hall light was our Judas light. Let it shine.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Godspeed, John Glenn, back to stardust

I was startled awake by something before 7 AM. I didn't realize it was an earthquake. Getting the news. More death. All our cultural icons shuffling off this mortal coil in 2016. Do you think they knew something we didn't? It's a mass exodus.

Now John Glenn. Godspeed, back to stardust. Somebody said it must be the Rapture, another said, Yep, 23 more days to go. Who's next? We're no longer talking in multiples of threes here, but scores of threes.

It's been a rough harvest: David Bowie to Leonard Cohen. and now Mercury Seven's John Glenn. Glenn became the youngest and first American to orbit the Earth, aboard Friendship 7 on February 20, 1962, he was the third American in space, and the fifth human being in space.
Zero G, and I feel fine.
— Glenn's first words on becoming weightless upon reaching orbit, February 20, 1962

 I once taught an Elderhostel class at Silverpenny Farm, in Petaluma, and one of my students was a NASA engineer that put the astronauts on the moon. He brought a piece of moon-rock to class. I held a piece of the moon in my hands. Basalt! I realize astronaut William Anders took the photo Earthrise, in 1968, but when I see it, I will always think of Glenn and Man on the Moon.

Not only was Glenn the youngest American to go into orbit. He returned to space on the Space Shuttle in 1998, and, at age 77, he held the title of being the oldest person to go into space. Glenn "won his seat on the Shuttle flight by lobbying NASA for two years to fly as a human guinea pig for geriatric studies."

My friend Rebecca Morrison said: "My uncle in Colorado was John's best friend and was the best man at his wedding. My father was an astronomer so my uncle got glossy first-hand photos of the moon from John and mailed them to my father."
And friend Miceál Francis O'Hurley siad: "John got me transferred to the House for a stint where I worked to get Vladimir Titov on the STS-63 mission. This is the flag and crew patch they flew for me in space. Eileen Collins piloted the Shuttle Discovery on this mission. I owe much to John Glenn."
Miceál sent me this:

hen I was in the Ukraine, I got to see many exhibits of USSR cosmonauts Yuri Gagarin and Gherman Titov. And there's an exhibit of some of the space capsules on the Navy aircraft carrier, the USS Hornet, docked in Alameda. There's a space museum aboard the ship with NASA Apollo artifacts. The Hornet was the recovery ship for the Apollo 11 and Apollo 12 moon missions in 1969. The Apollo command module is so tiny, it's boggling.

Time to watch The Right Stuff, Brigadier General Chuck Yeager, USAF (Ret) plays Fred, the bartender at Pancho's saloon. Scott Beach as Head German Scientist based on Wernher von Braun.

Scott' Beach's most famous line ever was: It's White Flower Days at Macy's! We'd all nag him to say it again in that basso profundo voice. Loved that guy. He was part of The Committee, with Mimi Fariña, they did a lot of street theater in SF/Bay Area. He was also a popular DJ.

I first met Scott, in high school, at the Renaissance Pleasure Faire in Black Point in Novato. Scott was the Lord Mayor of the Shire. George Lucas liked his voice so much he used him in THX 1138. Beach also appeared as Mr. Gordon in American Graffiti, and was an uncredited stormtrooper voice in Star Wars. 

How Jerry Brown earned the moniker Governor Moonbeam; see the 2nd segment, on CA being an independent country, with its own LANsats. Priceless.


Wednesday, December 7, 2016

More meanderings on Hiraeth/Saudade

A friend, Slim Russell, noted the similarity between the Welsh hiraeth and Portuguese saudade, not knowing the linguistic relationship. These are from some notes I wrote to her.

Well, it's not so strange a connection in that Portuguese/Galego (Galician) and Welsh are related, both stemming from the same Gaulish-Celtic ancestor...and that strange melancholia was a noted trait among the Celts.

The Welsh hiraeth, Breton hiraezh, Cornish hyreth, and Irish sireacht (shiracht), all stem from the Celtic root word, siros, which is related to Latin serus—which evolved into Portuguese/Galician via Iberian Celtic speakers, full circle to Saudade. Galicians also use morriña, that's extreme saudade on steroids.

Portuguese/Galician Gaulish had many similarities to Irish (Q-Celtic) vs Gaulish, from which Welsh (P-Celtic) stems. Of course Portuguese/Galician evolved from Iberian, or Atlantic Celts trying to speak Latin, language of the conquerors.
"Hiraeth is a Welsh word for which there is no direct English translation: homesickness tinged with grief or sadness over the lost or departed. It is a mix of longing, yearning, nostalgia, wistfulness, or an earnest desire for the Wales of the past.

Hiraeth bears considerable similarities with the Portuguese concept of saudade (a key theme in Fado music), Brazilian Portuguese banzo (more related to homesickness), Galician morriña, Romanian dor, Russian toska and Ethiopian tizita."  —Wiki
"Saudade is a word in Portuguese and Galician (from which it entered Spanish) that claims no direct translation in English. ...Saudade is also associated with Galicia, where it is used similarly to the word morriña (longingness). Yet, morriña often implies a deeper stage of saudade, a "saudade so strong it can even kill," as the Galician saying goes. Morriña was a term often used by emigrant Galicians when talking about the Galician motherland they left behind. Although saudade is also a Galician word, the meaning of longing for something that might return is generally associated with morriña. A literary example showing the understanding of the difference and the use of both words is the song Un canto a Galicia by Julio Iglesias."   —Wiki

One of my favorite songs of Cesária Evora, is Sodade. (Cape Verde spelling.)
Y un canto a Galicia, desde Julio Iglesias, who is Galician.

It's Pearl Harbor Day, a good a day as any to suffer from a case of saudade or hiraeth.

Longing/Saudade/Hiraeth  A blog I wrote on saudade/hiraeth.
and another on Hiraeth.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016


I can't bring myself to delete 
the accounts of dead in Facebook
I still have Kathleene West's page. 
She sold me her cellphone for dirtcheap 
right before she committed suicide, 
and it was haunting to find her photos 
on the memory card after she had gone...
Jane Elsdon and Ann Menebroker 
are up to something, I know it...
I can hear Steve Kowit laughing 
maniacally in the other room.
Juanita Musson's cooking 
up a great feast in a washpan.
Speaking of Old Sausalito, 
Brite Bonnier's still painting.
And what about Pagan Neil?
Tom Hayden's dusting off his book, 
saying Poets don't pay. Ever.
And Norton Buffalo sometimes still visits 
from beyond the earthly Paradise, 
via fan photos. He fills the page.
Chris Caswell's ghost harp 
still plays in the wind.
Whitman McGowan's just stepped out 
of the room for a moment. Perhaps for a pint.
No, I can't delete them. No, not yet.


Michael Rothenberg (100Thousand Poets for Change) wrote that he was deleting dead friends on his Facebook page.My reply was a poem of sorts.

Sunday, December 4, 2016


California quail on the fence rail
in front of Diebenkorn's old place
balanced on the whitewashed boards
like teacups tottering on the drainboard,
they chuckled nervously as I stopped the car
to watch them catching the morning sun.


Saturday, December 3, 2016

Solving picture math equations

Everybody's going crazy over this math problem. Who knew I was supposed to Multiply or Divide before you Add or Subtract. Whoa. Definitely never learned that rule. Ever. I learned to always go from left to right. Like the way we read in this hemisphere.

All this time I've been doing picture math wrong. I didn't know about the bait and switch part (do multiplication first even if there are no huggy-armed parentheses to hold you in a huddle). 

I was told that we couldn't mix apples and oranges in math—ever—so why is this mixup ok? Is this new math? We're adding coke and fries and burgers, here. What about the apples an oranges? 

Who knew that even WITHOUT parentheses, you still solve it as if there was invisible parentheses there? Why even write it that way? Because someone forgot to add parentheses? Seems like a bait and switch. Or somebody was slovenly. Lazy bastard. Who all agreed to this formality? No wonder people don't like math. I want a hug.

And then there's the trick drawing, as if I wasn't already stressed out. I missed that there was only one pack of fries for the final equation. And McDonald's? Ugh. That explains all the empty calories. And a profound lack of clarity. Too many golden arches. Not a happy meal.

First equation, three cokes, means a a pitstop. Second and third equations with burgers and fries in various configurations means a powerful thirst, and quite possibly indigestion. All those burgers had cheese. Why didn't anyone share their fries? 

Next time, I want to tell the mathematician, choose In-n-Out Burgers. They use real potatoes. Much more straightforward. No hidden ingredients. Do the math. That's my answer and I'm sticking to it.

Now, would you like an apple or an orange?

Friday, December 2, 2016

"The Lady With the Umbrella" —after Sargeant

The Lady With the Umbrella John Singer Sargent, 1911

Rose-Marie's sprawled back against the feather pillows. A momentary respite, escaping the confines of her corset. As if she'd just flopped back after a large lunch. She's bundled up against wind and weather. A hat, a scarf, a parasol. Did she forget her gloves? The red and blue accents on her midi-blouse suggest she was boating, or perhaps a game of lawn tennis is in progress. Her hips are canted towards the artist, her skirt is a field of snow. Damp grass threatens to stain her voluminous white petticoats. She's watching him paint her. She wishes he'd hurry up. He says: One more minute. Five. He is in love with all that diffuse light, and the undertone of lake reflections. But her eyes have traveled beyond the confines of the frame to another time. And the score is love or nothing.