Wednesday, March 21, 2018


One of my favorite stories, often repeated, is about the to-the-point book report a little girl submitted after reading a book on penguins: "This book tells me more about penguins than I need to know."  I'm afraid my blogs may occasionally elicit the same reaction.

I have always had a tendency to reveal—-well, not only reveal, but revel in—things about myself which other people logically and probably justifiably prefer to keep to themselves. That some of these things are embarrassing to talk about and may even make others a little nervous doesn't seem to slow me down.  While drawing the line at detailed accounts of the more intimate of bodily functions, almost everything else is fair game. It is not coincidental, I think, that I have divided myself into Roger and Dorien, since I've always had the ability to stand apart from myself and observe my reactions with a fascination I have no real reason to believe anyone else could share. 

I am, as I'm sure you have noticed, massively self-absorbed. You may well wonder, as I do, why and to what end? I think it's because there are so many things we all share but for some reason feel we must keep to ourselves; things we are uncomfortable talking about for one reason or another...usually because we're afraid there is something wrong with us for having such thoughts, and we don't want anyone else to know we have them. The effect of this is that, when everyone else also remains silent, it reinforces our believe that those feelings and thoughts we do not express are unique to ourselves, when in fact they are not.  I strongly suspect that many if not most of those things of which we are  unreasonably embarrassed or ashamed and consider to be ours alone are in fact far more common than we realize. We are each unique, but not as unique as we assume.

The fact is that these are largely within-ourselves things, and we must spend the vast bulk of our time and energy in an outside-ourselves world. There simply isn't time to do too much introspection.

And then there is the basic human resistance to making waves. We all want to fit in, to be accepted. And as a result we learn to keep things to ourselves. So perhaps I flatter myself by thinking that by airing out my closet, as it were, you might recognize in it similar items you have in your own, and might be a bit freer in not only acknowledging them but not feeling quite so alone in having them.

Because each human is an individual, every society, culture, race, and ethnic group establishes its own set of standards and generally-agreed-upon perimeters within which its members are expected to stay. These standards are, at their base, pretty similar, and nearly every one stems from the prime imperative: survival of the species. One of the problems is, however, that times and challenges change while the standards, once established, do not. What were very logical rules when the standards were set up—many of them spelled out, for Christians and Jews, in the Old Testament of the Bible—have long ago lost their reason for being. The Jewish proscription against eating pork, for example, was a logical response to the real dangers of trichinosis in a time of no refrigeration. The dangers guarded against have almost ceased to exist, but the traditions remain long after the need for them has vanished. 

Cultural/social standards and rules tend to be based more on our psyche than on physical dictates, and a great many rules are imposed by religion and ethnicity. To this day, Americans are saddled with a puritanical past, which is probably most strongly evident in our puzzling and contradictory attitudes toward sexuality. The oft-quoted definition of puritanism as "the deep, abiding fear that somewhere, someone might be having fun" is deeply ingrained. We are both titillated and, depending on our degree of self-repression, repelled by any sex act not engaged in exclusively for the purpose of procreation. It is not "proper" to talk of such things.

So we find ourselves in an imaginary box wherein arbitrary limits are placed on what is "proper" to be mentioned to others and what should be repressed. I just enjoy reminding people that it's okay to step beyond the box every now and then, just for the fun of doing it.

This blog is from Dorien's collection of blogs written after his book, “Short Circuits,” available from and, was published. That book is also available as an audio book from Amazon/  We are looking at the possibility of publishing a second volume of blogs. The blogs now being posted are from that tentative collection. You can find information about all of Dorien's books at his web site:

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Waste Not, Want Not

My apartment is in the rear of my building, overlooking a service area adjacent to the alley. There is a huge open-topped dumpster almost directly below my bedroom window, and whenever I look into it, as I did just now, my frustration level soars. 

They are renovating several units in the building, which necessitated the outsized dumpster to handle the debris. But when they began stripping the apartments—they completely gut each one—I was dismayed to see perfectly good kitchen cabinets and countertops, sinks, doors, and even gleaming white toilets just pitched into the dumpster. 

This is what is euphemistically known as a “senior citizens” complex. When a resident dies (and no, dear friend, they do not “pass away”: they die) everything...everything...not claimed by relatives is thrown out. If there are no relatives, the entire contents of the apartment is pitched with absolutely no regard of its potential use or value to others—and we won’t go near the subject of the loss of the deceased’s personality, memories, and dreams accumulated over a lifetime. Chairs, tables, desks, couches, books, bookshelves, televisions, clocks, pictures. Pitched. Just pitched. The waste is staggering, especially considering how many desperately poor people there are out there who have so very little and would be happy to have made use of them.

There are scavengers who roam Chicago's alleys in battered pick-up trucks, gathering whatever they can salvage and sell, but the dumpsters used here have 10-12-foot-high sides, making them next to impossible to see what is inside from street level, let alone get into without a ladder. Thousands upon thousands of dollars worth of reusable items utterly wasted. And the dumpster I observe with such dread is only one in a city of nearly 4 million people!

And yet when I asked the manager of my building how they could possibly so cavalierly dispose of so much reusable material I got excuses involving the possibility—no matter how remote—of bedbugs and the claim that the removed cabinets and doors not meeting standards, etc. 

What good does all this talk of recycling for the good of the planet do when things which so clearly can and should be recycled are not? I'm not talking cardboard boxes and aluminum cans, here, but furniture, utensils, appliances, decorative items—the things which give individuality to one's life—-which could be put to good use by so many people who have so little.

Yet even when I was clearing out my late friend Norm's condo, I ended up having to pay someone to come and haul away thousands of dollars worth of furnishings and decorative pieces, and I realized that there are logical, logistical obstacles between altruism and reality/practicality. (I even approached one of the alley scavengers and told them they could have anything of Norm's I was otherwise going to have to, in effect, throw away. I envisioned them selling it all to people who would be grateful to have it for pennies on the dollar, plus the scavengers would make money for their effort. I arranged to meet them at the condo at a certain time. They never showed up.)

I have never been able to just throw away anything I think might have value to someone else. I never order a full meal in a restaurant because I know I will not eat more than six bites of whatever it is I order. So on those rare occasions where I order more than an appetizer, I take the rest home and put it in the freezer, where it sits until I throw it away. And when I do, I feel guilty

I am constantly embarrassing my friends by leaning over to pick a penny off the sidewalk. I vastly prefer potted plants over cut flowers, which are beautiful for a very short time, then are thrown away. As with so very many other things, I honestly feel the world would be a better place if everyone followed my example, and sincerely cannot comprehend why they don't.

We are surely the most shamefully wasteful people in the history of the world. We're constantly being told that our profligate ways will one day come up and bite us in the ass. Well, don't look now, but....

This blog is from Dorien's collection of blogs written after his book, “Short Circuits,” available from and, was published. That book is also available as an audio book from Amazon/  We are looking at the possibility of publishing a second volume of blogs. The blogs now being posted are from that tentative collection. You can find information about all of Dorien's books at his web site:

Friday, March 09, 2018

The Tale of a Book

When I was a kid, Saturday was movie day, usually at the State Theater because there’d be a double feature, a newsreel, a couple short subjects, a cartoon, and a serial. I loved the serials…except the westerns. I never cared for westerns for some reason. (Though, I must admit, I had a huge crush on Roy Rogers.)

Years later, when I grew up and moved out into the world, I started working for a publishing house which was for some reason desperate at the moment for western novels. The company’s senior editor asked me if I would like to write one. While I could never stand westerns I was even then very fond of money, so I took it as a challenge. I thought back to my college days, when I’d taken a course in writing commercials, which I so hated I rather hoped to be kicked out of the class. For one commercial-writing assignment, I decided to go totally over the top and wrote a commercial in which a young boy pleads with his mother to allow him to keep the elephant which had followed him home. To my amazement, the instructor loved it.

So, when it came time to venture into writing the western, I decided to jam it full of just about every western cliche I could think of: stampedes and buck wagons and bar fights and ambushes and rattlesnakes and range fires. Oh, and to make it extra challenging, it had to be squeaky-clean heterosexual. (I mean, cowboys and homosexuality? Sacrilege!) However, since it was not uncommon in westerns for the hero to end up with his horse rather than the girl, I figured I could do it.

The story revolved around a cowboy named “Calico” for the fact of his having heterochromia—one blue eye and one brown (besides, I love the name of the condition)—who is charged with delivering a pair of city-raised twins, a boy and a girl, to their aunt’s isolated ranch in far-off Colorado. All by the book, as it were. But since my mind does not work along heterosexual lines, it wouldn’t be difficult for anyone looking for homoerotic undertones to read between the lines and see that there was obviously something going on between Calico and Josh, the male twin.

But it surprised me that as I wrote the book, it became far more about the characters than the cliches. I began to see them as real people, and wanted them to end up together. I remembered how important it would have been for me, in my State Theater years, to have had any sort of positive gay role model. It bothered me that I was not allowed to explore the fact that there simply had to have been gay cowboys just as there have always been gay adolescents.

The chief editor, for reasons known only to herself, rejected my original title, Calico, and renamed it Stagecoach to Nowhere, despite the fact that there are only two mentions of stagecoaches in the entire book, and neither of them have any bearing whatsoever on the plot. Plus, the back-cover blurb stated, “He cursed the law and rode for justice,” which I found fascinating, since there was no law cursing, and the need for justice was more understood than stated. Despite all this, however, it sold surprisingly well.

So, when the copyright on Stagecoach to Nowhere expired—the publishing company for which it was written having gone out of existence—I decided to rewrite it the way I’d wanted to write it in the first place. I returned its original title, Calico, and brought the homoeroticism out from between the lines, though without any explicit sex. I was careful to make it clear the twins would be the age of consent by the time the book ended, so that Calico and Josh could ride off into the sunset together without fear of accusations of pedophilia. And by making Josh very confident in his gayness, I hoped to make both him and Calico role models for young gays and lesbians who are still hungry for them.

And thus we have the somewhat abridged tale of a book. Anyone interested in reading the entire first chapter of Calico can do so on my website, or watch the video trailer on YouTube: (and remember the book cover has been changed since the video was made). 

This blog is from Dorien's collection of blogs written after his book, “Short Circuits,” available from and, was published. That book is also available as an audio book from Amazon/  We are looking at the possibility of publishing a second volume of blogs. The blogs now being posted are from that tentative collection. You can find information about all of Dorien's books at his web site:

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Cats and Dogs

I try to avoid talking about my cat for fear of being lumped in with those dear ladies who think if having 16 cats is good, having 27 is better. Rightly or wrongly, people seem to identify themselves as being "a cat person" or "a dog person" and it seems women, overall, prefer cats whereas men prefer dogs. I love them both, though I must admit leaning to the "dog" side of the equation. Though living in an apartment, as I do now, the balance of logic is in favor of the cat, which is far less high-maintenance than a dog. When there's no back yard for the dog to roam around in, the physical confines of an apartment are often difficult for a dog, and unlike cats, dogs must be walked a very minimum of twice a day. You can't go off and leave a dog in an apartment for two or three days. Cats take it in stride, and when you return are apparently unaware you'd been gone.

Dogs give their affection freely and without encouragement. Any attention paid them is clearly and often wildly appreciated. Cats tend to ration their attention, and it can almost never be solicited. Dogs always come when called, tails wagging, eager to share time with you. Calling a cat is like hailing a cab at rush hour. The best you'll get is a cursory and totally unconcerned glance. But when they decide they want attention, they expect you to drop everything and give it to them.

I have one cat, Spirit, whom I got six or eight months ago after swearing, following the death of Crickett, whom I'd had for about 15 years, that I would never get another one. I got him at a shelter, and took him because 1) I have always been partial to black cats and he is almost totally black (I didn't discover the white patch on his belly until later) and his already-given name was Spirit. As the writer of a paranormal mystery series, I took that latter fact as an omen.

Spirit is selectively smart. If he sees some advantage in indicating anyone is home behind those slanted eyes, he will let me know someone's there. If not, forget it. He will sit at my feet staring up at me and I will pat my lap. "Come on, Sprit! Come on." He stares at me without moving a muscle. (I recently read that cats simply do not understand the patting of a lap and "Come on! Come on!" to indicate they're supposed to do something.)

Each cat is completely different from every other cat in existence, and Spirit and Crickett are poles apart using any kind of measurement. Cricket hated getting her paws wet. Spirit cannot wait for me to open the shower door to reach for a towel before he is inside the stall with me, watching the rivulets of water run down the walls, and lapping water from around the drain. 
When someone he does not know comes into my apartment, he runs and hides in a cupboard beneath the kitchen sink. He likes it so well that he has learned to open the door, though exactly how he does it I have yet to discover. The door is flush with the frame on all sides. Still, he manages.

Every single time I open the door to my bedroom closet, he rushes in as though it is a marvelous new world opened to him for the very first time. Unless I’m able to stop him first, he jumps up on storage boxes on the closet floor and disappears behind the hanging clothes, refusing to come out. I could just leave him there, I suppose, but it seems he loves chewing on cardboard and scattering bits of it everywhere. So unless I get down on my hands and knees, fumble around between the boxes and clothes trying to find him and haul him out. Despite his tendency to chew on the boxes, I have on occasion, after a few minutes of  ignored cajoling, simply closed the closet door and walked away. I generally get as far as the bedroom door when he will begin a piteous wailing. I go back and open the door. He races out, I suspect eager to get to the phone and call the A.S.P.C.A. to report me for extreme mental cruelty. But five minutes later, I will open the closet door to get something else, and he will dash in, refusing to come out. I close the closet door and walk away. ("One. Two. Three. Four." Meeeeeeaowwwww! Meeeeeeaowwwww!)

I am convinced that it is not that cats cannot learn. They just don't see any particular reason why they should.

I do love Spirit but there are times I really, really wish I had a dog.
This blog is from Dorien's collection of blogs written after his book, “Short Circuits,” available from and, was published. That book is also available as an audio book from Amazon/  We are looking at the possibility of publishing a second volume of blogs. The blogs now being posted are from that tentative collection. You can find information about all of Dorien's books at his web site:

Sunday, March 04, 2018


I know, I know…our attraction to physically pretty people is somehow encoded in our DNA as an imperative. Survival of the fittest and all that. But our humanity should raise us above our genes, and it far too seldom does.

One of the least followed of biblical teachings is "Judge not, lest you be judged." We are continually judging other people...and ourselves…using arbitrary standards imposed upon us. By whom, exactly? No one seems to know. And, if we have an iota of concern for how we compare to other people, or of our relationships to the rest of humanity, we inevitably suffer from them.

Surely there are people who are sufficiently self confident that how they see themselves when compared to others is a non-issue. I truly envy them, but unfortunately have never been one of them…and I fear they are a tiny minority. 

There are scientific studies proving an almost mathematical equation for determining attractiveness—the more “balanced” one’s facial features, the more closely a mirror image of one side of the face matches the other, the more attractive the person is judged to be. And being “pretty” is an incalculable advantage on almost every level of human interaction. “Pretty” people tend to be the first hired, the first to be promoted. They tend to marry other pretty people. While this may have a certain general, utterly unemotional logic rooted in genetic imperatives, the fact is that our preoccupation with beauty causes incalculable pain and suffering for millions and millions of people who are made aware that they are not pretty.

The prejudice toward attractiveness and appeal is perhaps even more blatantly obvious when it comes to our pets. Go to any animal shelter where pets are offered for adoption. Which ones get adopted first? The cute little puppies and kittens, the handsome older animals, of course. But what of that runt in the litter, or that sad-eyed, scraggly mutt with his tail between his legs? Are they any less deserving of a good home? Though I have no figures on which to base this statement, I will be willing to bet that far more "ugly" animals are killed by "humane societies" than are handsome ones.

Are ugly creatures, human and animal, less worthy of love? It breaks my heart to see the fuss made over the cute little human darlings while the heavy-set kid with thick lips or a big nose or a receding chin is all but totally ignored.

And our society goes to great lengths to perpetrate this injustice. Turn on any commercially produced television program. Count the number of pretty people, then count the number of average-looking or less-than-average. Odds are the proportion of pretty people is many, many times larger than the ratio of attractive to not-so-attractive in society in general. And how many unattractive actors, proportionately, ever reach the status of stars? It is the beautiful people, in movies and in life, who are the “stars.” The rest are “character actors.”

Fortunately, there is hope for everyone. We all can recall certain incidents, certain encounters, certain seemingly insignificant moments which somehow permeate deeply into our souls and remain with us throughout our lives. On the subject of being “pretty”—a very sensitive one for me, who has never been pretty—one such moment still fills me with wonder and heartbreaking joy. Many years ago, I was in a restaurant seated directly across a table with a man and a woman both of whom were, by any scientific or general measure of beauty or physical attractiveness, singularly unattractive; by most people’s standards they would be thought of as ugly. The man was grossly overweight with a rough, pockmarked face, which was totally lacking in scientific "balance." The woman looked like a cruel caricature of the Wicked Witch of the West. (And even as I write this I am truly ashamed of myself for perpetrating the cruelty by describing them in this way.) 

But the thing that matters, the thing has stayed with me all these years, is that as they looked at each other and held hands across the table, they radiated such a powerful sense of love that it, for me, completely redefined the word "beauty." They had each other. They loved each other. The "rules of physical attractiveness" didn't matter. What I thought or you thought or the world thought didn't matter. What possibly could?

This blog is from Dorien's collection of blogs written after his book, “Short Circuits,” available from and, was published. That book is also available as an audio book from Amazon/  We are looking at the possibility of publishing a second volume of blogs. The blogs now being posted are from that tentative collection. You can find information about all of Dorien's books at his web site:

Tuesday, February 27, 2018


We're all so busy living our lives that we seldom take the time to step back and really look at things.  Not the big stuff upon which our existence depends, but on those millions and millions of trivialities that surround us every minute and yet go ignored. It is these little things which fascinate me. 

"Such as," you ask? Well, such as the following:

I enjoy picking out left-handed people at a play or concert: left handers clap their left hands into their right; right handers clap their right hands into their left.

Tap the lip of a cup lightly with a spoon as you fill the cup with hot water and listen to the change in pitch as the cup fills. (It doesn't work quite as well using cold water, interestingly.)

Lay two sheets of paper in front of you on a desk. Take a pencil in each hand and without concentrating or looking at what you're doing, write your name simultaneously with both. Your dominant hand will, of course, write your name correctly. The other hand will write it backwards.

Runway models always cross one foot slightly in front of the other as they walk. 

Female celebrities have the annoying habit of posing one hand on hip far, far more often than would naturally occur, apparently assuming this to be somehow seductive. It is not.

Notice, the next time you are in a government office, how many of the employees charged with dealing with the public seem completely certain they are the government.

If you've followed my blogs for any length of time, you know of my ongoing ranting about the very real demand that actors in commercials prominently display a wedding ring to subliminally show the viewer that he is a "family man" and therefore can be trusted. Unmarried actors or those who do not normally wear a wedding ring are often actually required to put one on for the commercial. And, again, you will never see an adult male alone in a commercial with a young child unless the man is wearing a wedding ring, lest the viewer think the man is a pedophile.

New York subway cars are almost half again as long as Chicago subway cars and have three sets of doors as opposed to the two sets on Chicago cars. Some modern European subway trains are articulated and have no divisions at all between cars.

The next time you are at a museum featuring classical ancient Egyptian paintings or sculptures, note that statues of standing figures all have their arms rigidly against their sides, their hands clasped into a fist around what appears to be a short stick but which, I realized, is only something to fill the gap between the thumb and clenched fingers.  And all standing figures have their left foot extended beyond their right.

In Egyptian wall paintings, eyes and torsos are always painted as if being viewed head-on, despite the position of the rest of the body. It is very rare to see a body portrayed from the side, or in any other position.

Classical Greek statues have no bridge to the nose...the ridge of the nose is a straight line from forehead to tip.

Etruscan sarcophagi often feature sculptures of the dead propped up on one arm, but always turned to the right, and the right knee often bent and raised slightly. 

How can I...or you...become bored when just opening our eyes and looking at things as though they are being seen for the first time presents such a wealth of things to wonder about and be in awe of? Try it and see.

This blog is from Dorien's collection of blogs written after his book, “Short Circuits,” available from and, was published. That book is also available as an audio book from Amazon/  We are looking at the possibility of publishing a second volume of blogs. The blogs now being posted are from that tentative collection. You can find information about all of Dorien's books at his web site:

Friday, February 23, 2018

Lip Service

We are a lip-service people. Both as individuals and as a society, we solemnly proclaim belief in and adherence to one thing while doing the exact opposite. There is, far too often, only the most flimsy connection between our words and our actions. Generally, lip service is basically harmless; it's something everyone does. But it covers a very broad spectrum from the generally harmless—almost a natural reaction—to calculatedly cynical and hypocritical. 

Paying lip service to something is, for the most part, a form of taking the path of least resistance. We claim to believe things simply because, whether we honestly believe them to be true or not, we acknowledge that everyone else seems to believe them, and we don't want to rock the boat or risk calling attention to ourselves by standing out too far from the crowd. Standing out from the crowd makes one vulnerable and a potential target, like a wildebeest who strays too far from the herd. Few people want to be targets.

Lip service also provides protective coloration, offering a large tree behind which we can hide our true thoughts and feelings. And there are those who can delude themselves into confusing lip service with truth. Bigots, for example, almost always vehemently deny they are bigots. Religious zealots loudly and piously proclaim their fealty to the written tenets of their faith while totally ignoring and violating them. Muslim extremists have done perhaps irreparable harm to the religion they slavishly defend, often to the death of themselves and others. Christian extremists are somewhat less dismissive of their own lives, but still only slightly less reprehensible. Those who most strongly avow their allegiance to the Bible are often the very ones who do the most undermine it. They seem to have the astonishing ability to overlook such insignificant-to-them little precepts as "Love thy neighbor,"  "Do unto others as you would have done unto you," "Let him who is without sin cast the first stone," and "Judge not lest ye be judged."

Corporations, which differ from religious zealots only in that the deity they worship is Mammon rather than God or Allah, have made an art out of saying one thing and doing another. ("Your call is very important to us," and "...where you, the customer, are our primary concern" spring to mind. Few if any of them even bother, anymore, to pay lip service to "the customer is always right." I suspect when they try to say that, they burst into uproarious laughter.) 

Lip service is the cornerstone of politics. Politicians regularly and unctuously pay lip service to any widely held belief they think might win them votes while, while subverting it for their own ends. Tea Partiers want to "take back our country" to its constitutional roots, but want to rid the Constitution of those parts they find bothersome.

On a personal, individual level, lip service is sometimes the only logical way of dealing with matters one is truly unable to comprehend. I pay lip service to—that is, I can accept, albeit with great reluctance—the belief that one is only as old as one feels, and that age doesn't matter. I can even say my age aloud, but though I say it in English, it might as well be Swahili. The words strike my ear, but not my mind. Try as I might, I simply cannot believe it because it can't be true. And you'll notice I'm not saying it here. It's not a matter of being coy, it's simply a matter of sincere incomprehensibility.

So, lip service, universally used and universally ignored, is simply yet another little device we humans use to try to make some sense and order out of what is too often a senseless and chaotic existence. It is one thin thread in the rope we have spun as a race to tether ourselves to reality. I just wish the rope were stronger, and that it didn’t so easily become a noose.
This blog is from Dorien's collection of blogs written after his book, “Short Circuits,” available from and, was published. That book is also available as an audio book from Amazon/  We are looking at the possibility of publishing a second volume of blogs. The blogs now being posted are from that tentative collection. You can find information about all of Dorien's books at his web site: