Zen Dixie's "Heroes" Issue -- only ten days left!

As usual, I have had my nose to the grindstone and have had a hard time getting back here. Must! do! better!

But I really didn't want to let all of September go by without talking about this month's issue of Zen Dixie magazine. We've decided to have a theme issue only every three months or so, and the September theme has been "Heroes." As far as I'm concerned, this has been one of the best issues yet, in the online magazine's eleven months of existence.

One of my favorite articles is this one: My Hero, by Bullet Brown, a former vet tech, a current dog groomer, authority on pet skin and coat anatomy, and animal rescuer. She talks about her toy poodle, Michael, who is her seizure dog. Talk about unconditional love. (I got a real lump in my throat from this article.)

Karen Boissonneault-Gauthier, a fellow Canadian on the writing team, talks about Bumblebee, a four-year-old skater who stole the show at a skating exhibition. (I got a lump in my throat reading this one too.)

The Canadian Collective explains to non-Canadians just what the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) is all about. I'm not sure that most Canadians think of the CBC as "heroic," but given that our public broadcaster has been under attack by the very government that sponsors it, for several years now, I think they battle on very heroically.

And my own observations about heroes are a little...different. My first thought, when I realized what the month's theme was, was about mythical heroes like Orpheus, who got torn to pieces. And then I thought of Tiger Woods and Lance Armstrong. So I wrote about Eating Our Heroes Alive. Why do we do it? Why do we give them adulation and then shriek in glee when they fall? I have some ideas about that.

All in all, I think the magazine is really maturing and the writing and observations and information are getting better and better. I'm very proud of the magazine and of our editor, Jas Faulkner. She's another hero who has seen us through considerable adversity this past year, and has kept the magazine rolling. I think her amazing work is finally being rewarded.

(Oh! And I want to toot my own horn just one last time for this issue. I got to review a wonderful book, too, about the history of research surrounding Tutankhamun's mummy: The Shadow King, by Jo Marchant. Excellent book!)

July's Zen Dixie magazine - all about Guilty Pleasures! (hint: mine is about anime)

That's right. As soon as I heard that the July theme for the Zen Dixie magazine would be "Guilty Pleasures," I squeeeed mightily. Of course I was going to write about how anime was really written for adults, despite the silly ones. Ha!

But before that issue comes out, this is just a reminder that there have been some pretty amazing music-related articles in the June issue. So if you're interested and want to finish it off before the "Guilty Pleasures" issue comes out, I think today may be the last chance.

Intense and meaningful music choices

This month's issue of Zen Dixie magazine is a music issue, and I've been surprised and moved at how deep and meaningful my fellow writers' articles are. So this is partly promo, but also just an invitation to read some very moving stuff.

This month's Karma Obscura article, Sweet Caroline, by Karen Boissonneault-Gauthier, talks about how that song was just randomly chosen as the music for the seventh-inning stretch at Fenway Park, where the Boston Red Sox play. But what a life of its own it has achieved! So much, in fact, that singing it in other major league ballparks became a way for cities, teams, and fans to show the people in Boston how supported and cared for they were after the marathon bombings.

And perhaps even more moving, perhaps, is Nanette Morton's account (Nerd's Eye View: September in the Rain) of how the music of Dinah Washington became her last way of connecting with her father, as dementia eroded his mind and took him away. If you can read this without wiping your eyes, I'll be very surprised.

It's really something, how the music issue has captured so many emotional connections for all of us writers. I really recommend it, and it's not just because I've got stuff in it.

Canada for Beginners: Ever heard of Stompin' Tom? Know him and know Canada

Stompin' Tom Connors was a Canadian country singer who was very Canadian. He was also rather idiosyncratic, and he wrote song lyrics like "The girls are out to Bingo and the boys are gettin' stinko; And we think no more of Inco on a Sudbury Saturday night." Like I said -- very Canadian.

In this month's music issue of Zen Dixie, the Great West North Collective (this month, just two of us) write about what Stompin' Tom (who recently died) really meant to Canada, in Canada for Beginners.

Ray Charles stops the Memphis rain in the brand ew issue of Zen Dixie -- the Music issue!

In Anecdotal Evidence, the editor of Zen Dixie magazine, Jas Faulkner, recalls a magical evening in Memphis in May of 1989. The headliner that night, at what was then known as the Beale Street Blues Festival, was Ray Charles. The only problem was raining steadily. Would Jas miss this chance of a lifetime, to see and hear the great man? Or...?

Aulos player at the LouvreAnd of course, I should mention that I have my usual "Roving Observer" article in there too, describing how music makes us who we are, with illustrations from my own experience with music. Have a read if you feel inclined: You Are Your Music and Your Music is You.

I'm slowly browsing through the other articles now, and I'm really enjoying them so far. :-)

End shameless plug. Ha!

New Cultural Magazine: Zen Dixie (I get to write for it!)

I've recently started writing some articles for a new online cultural magazine called Zen Dixie. There are all sorts of regular columns and features, such as these book reviews in the Zen Dixie Reads section. This month, there seems to be an equal blend of fiction and non-fiction, which is a balance I really like. (I tend toward one side more for a month or so, and then shift to the other side for another couple of months. I love both.)

This months' fiction reviews feature books like John Scalzi's 2008 Agent to the Stars, which I only discovered myself a few months ago. (I saw several things done in cooperation between Wil Wheaton and John Scalzi, and I got curious. The rest was history.) Or you might be interested in finding out more about a new YA book, Navigating Earlly, which our editor/writer, Jas Faulkner, says is among a new instantiation of "road stories."

Or you might peek at some of the non-fiction. Our writer Rebecca Dobrinski really seems to like The Tattoo Chronicles (2010) by Kat Von D. Meanwhile, I am deeply intrigued by Jas's review of Salt Sugar Fat (2013), by New York Times food writer, Michael Moss. (Yet again, I am inspired to see how many of my own veggies I can grow in my balcony pots.)

Have a peek at the Zen Dixie articls to see if you like them. I myself (buffing nails) do a column called Roving Observer, which basically allows me to write about anything that's really caught my attention lately. This month, the column is about Canada's role in NASA's space program, centering around Commander Chris Hadfield, whose command of the International Space Station ends next Monday. He is quite a guy, and he's been tweeting photographs from space and recording music and giving science lessons and... Well. He's quite a guy.

Anyway, I'm going to be promoting articles from the magazine every few days, so I hope you'll be intrigued enough to check some of them out. :-)