Thursday, September 30, 2010

Heart, In Abundance

The Clockwork ThreeThe Clockwork Three by Matthew J. Kirby

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Every boy or girl, no matter how old, should read this book. I'll try to tell you why.

I believe at some time every child, no matter who or where they are, feels at least once and maybe several times like a slave of sorts, even in the best of times and in the most favorable of conditions. I know I did, and most of the people I've talked to enough about it to know, did also. Even though I was raised in pleasant circumstances with everything I needed, I did. Nonetheless, I had red hair and freckles, and my skin burned like the dickens. Ginger hair and abundant freckles that multiplied like crazy when I stayed out too long in the sun didn't appeal to me, not at all. Neither did the painful blisters from my sunburns. And that is putting it mildly. I felt like my light complexion made me a slave to it. I knew that my red hair made me an object of ridicule and bullying, and there were times when I utterly hated it and thought almost no one else, except perhaps another redhead, could ever understand.

THE CLOCKWORK THREE is the title of Matthew J. Kirby's novel about three young people that every person can identify with who is in or has experienced similar circumstances of crises, big or small: Giuseppe, Hannah, and Frederick. It is set on the eastern seaboard in a bustling city of the United States around 1900. Those three young characters provide ample opportunity for every young reader to find a friend to identify with relative to feelings of enslavement to something, whether it's freckles and red hair or something else much more or less serious.

Take as a mentor either the orphaned Giuseppe, who must play his violin in the streets for money and turn over all the earnings from doing so to an evil master, or the lovely and tender Hannah, who must work her fingers to the bone with little opportunity or future as a maid in a high-class hotel in order to provide for her impoverished family, or the handsome and strong Frederick, the young apprentice to a clockmaker who can't remember what happened to him earlier in his life so that he lost his mother and ended up in an orphanage. Because, if you do, you'll find more than the magic in Giuseppe's green violin found as flotsam in the bay, or in the automaton Frederick has long dreamed of bringing to life, or in the treasure in the park Hannah hopes to find to deliver her family from poverty and worse. You will find the magic of friendship, of sacrificing yourself for someone else, and of loyalty to both people you love and to principles.

This is Matthew's debut novel and what a grand one it is. You will love his tight storylines that will carry you away into the world of the three children; you'll marvel in the way he weaves his prose together so flawlessly, and you'll find satisfaction in the ease with which he employs metaphors and other literary devices. And characters! Oh my, the characters. Awesomeness.

Steampunk, fantasy, history, it has it all, subtly. But most of all, it has heart, in abundance.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, September 29, 2010



I suppose I should set forth a few of my basic beliefs relative to politics and social commerce. I don't know that I've ever done that in any substantive way, at least I have not since college, when the demands of a class might have required it. Of course, since that time my political views have changed dramatically.

Let's start today with crime and punishment.

I do believe people should be held responsible for the wrongs they do. I also believe that society needs to protect itself from those who break its laws. I also believe it is probably in the interests of our society for habitual criminals, particularly criminals who are involved in violent crime, to be put away for increasingly long periods of time.

Hate crimes seem especially egregious to me and merit enhanced penalties above and beyond that of the normal, run-of-the-mill crime. I believe children should be taught early and often — including in school — to have respect and honor for other people, even if they are different in looks or their personal religious beliefs or lack of belief.

I am opposed to the death penalty. I believe killing is evil. I personally believe killing is against what God wants any human being to do in any situation. I believe God has the power to deliver man from death and does so. I believe man rationalizes when he thinks that he is entitled to kill, even in situations where that has occurred in scripture, as in the case of Nephi and Laban, with an understanding that the Lord sanctioned it. We possess enough resources to protect ourselves from sociopaths, serial killers, and other truly evil individuals without resorting to killing them.

I lean toward legalizing recreational drugs, not because I have any intention of ever using them and not because I think they are anything less than evil in that context — recreational use, but because it would be a better avenue to getting a handle on the problem they have, in our era and place.

Where there is a tension between the "haves" and the "have-nots" as there most certainly is in the United States as is witnessed in the news today with reports of the growing gap between the rich and the poor, I am not for capping jury awards. There is no question but that rich and powerful people and corporations exploit the masses. In doing so, it isn't above those individuals who wield power and exercise it to cut corners inside or outside of corporations, to jeopardize, to exploit people. I believe they should be held accountable when they do so, and I believe that legitimate lawsuits should not have an upper limit.

While I recognize that the Supreme Court has indicated that there is an absolute right of individuals to own and use weapons, I'm opposed to it. I aspire to be a pacifist in all I do and say. I see no need for those who love their neighbors as themselves to own or use a weapon. I see a place for them in society in law enforcement, but above and beyond that I don't.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Some Final Plotting

So now I've got Alejandro on the run with Migra after him. He went up over the ridge and anticipates that Migra will utilize all of their resources to come after him. He's seen the turkey vulture flying through the sky, and given adequate warning to his father and to José. They have heeded his warning and turned back. Alejandro has lots of experience laying low but little experience fleeing through a harsh desert. Now he must do his best to get away.

I anticipate him getting caught. There's no way he can get away. So after he gets caught — and that has to only be after I have fully exploited the chase — there has to be a mechanism that allows him to go home to the Playhouse. What I've anticipated all along is him being able to exploit the "born on the border" question. Although, all along he has been told by his parents and family that he was born on the Mexican side of the border, what's to say he really was? How did they know? Did they cross the fence like the one I have posited in my exposition so far? It could be that he was really born on the American side.

Anyway, I anticipate the next section will be the chase and the capture. So that's what I need to work on and formulate.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


So my friend Matt Kirby's first novel comes out on October 1 of this year, in a few days. Everyone ought to read it. The title of the book is The Clockwork Three. Of course, I along with my other fellow critiquers are particularly invested in its success, because to some degree or another we all had input in Matt's book, even if it was only to suggest the rearrangement of a sentence or the incompatibility of some particular construction. Not only us in the critiquing group, but also other confidants helped Matt along the way, but mostly the credit goes to Matt and his fine ability to tell a compelling story and to string words together in a most magical way.

The book is targeted at youth. There are essentially three protagonists: Giuseppe, an enslaved street musician, Hannah, a maid at a hotel, and Frederick, the apprentice of a clockmaker. I won't bother here to tell about them any further or about the book, because the reviews that are out there already are more than adequate to compel you to read it. Check out Goodreads and Amazon, and you'll see. Then go buy the book.

Friday, September 10, 2010

The House in Star Valley Ranch

Earlier this summer we purchased a house in Star Valley Ranch, Wyoming, a little town not far from Thayne, Wyoming, another little town on Highway 89, about twenty miles north of Afton, Wyoming. Star Valley Ranch is about fifty miles south of Jackson, Wyoming. More people will be acquainted with Jackson. It is the big jumping off place for the Tetons, Teton National Park, etc. It has substantial celebrity.

The house is on an acre of ground, most of which is simply grassland. It is substantively flat with little or no elevation. The soil is quite rocky. Perhaps, there is a gentle slope toward the west, since the lot is on the east side of the valley and everything slopes downward toward the center of the valley. There are no houses or developments to the west of us.

It isn't that large of a house, although it is more than adequate for the three of us. It has two bedrooms and two bathrooms on the ground floor and two more bedrooms and a bathroom in the basement. There is a nice kitchen, a dining nook, and the living area. The living area has a fireplace, and to the south, another nook with bookshelves and a place for a desk. It is fully finished. The floors are hardwood, tile, and carpet. The hardwood runs throughout the living space: the hallway, the open living area, the dining nook, the kitchen and down the hall to the bedrooms and the bathroom.

The aspect of the house I like best is its opened, airy, and light living area. This is the area you come into from the east side of the house through the front door. It has a vaulted ceiling, and there are big windows to the east, looking out to the West. To the right, is the kitchen, and the dining area. To the east of the dining area there is a door that goes out onto a wraparound Trex deck and porch.

The house is above elevation enough so that the windows in the basement are at least partially exposed, except for one that is underneath the wraparound deck and porch. A yard has been put in around the house, approximately the size of a quarter acre lot. It is in grass and lightly landscaped. We had a contractor come in and put in a log fence with green wire mesh.

There is an attached two-car garage that is a nice size. It is bigger than the one I have in Layton.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

In Nogales

"Alejandro," I think I halfway hear. "Alejandro," I hear again, more clearly through my dream, the night vision that I've had so often lately, the one of me finding Papa in the Sonoran desert and helping him get home to the Great Basin.

"Alejandro. Alejandro, wake up."

It takes me a minute to realize that the voice isn't part of my dream. It's José. Now he's shaking my shoulder, and I'm kind of remembering where I am, in Nogales. "You've got to get up; it's time to go. Before it's too hot."

"What time is it?" I ask; my voice feels all hoarse. "It gets hotter than this?" I say, only half joking. It's already too hot.

"It's 5 AM," he says, "come on; stand up." He tugs on my shirt.

I get up from the dirt of the cellar and dust myself off. At least it was more comfortable sleeping there in the cellar, in its dirt underneath the house than it would have been trying to sleep upstairs, even if the swamp cooler is going, which I'm sure not sure is.

"Go to the bathroom," José tells me. He talks to me like he's my mother. "Hurry up."

Well, this is his turf, and I'll respect it. After all, I've never been here before; in fact, I've never left Clayton and its surrounding area before. So this is all foreign to me.

I trudge up the staircase, trying to go quietly even though it squeaks with every step, and go into the house and down the hallway to the bathroom. I go in, close the door, and take a leak. Next, I splash my face with water in the basin and look at myself in the mirror. I rake my fingers through my hair and think how much I look like Papa: the slant of my eyes, the jut of my chin, the heavy eyebrows. I miss him so much.

"Come on," I hear José. "It's time to go."

I gulp some water, wipe my mouth with my hand, and go out. José is there.

"Roberto is out at his truck," José says. "Let's go."

I follow him out. The city is already busy in the dark morning. People are moving about; the cars are coming and going. Roberto is in his truck, and we climb in beside him, me first and then José. The truck's engine could compete with Grandpa's Corolla for the roughness of its operation.

"You sure you can find him," I say.

"Yeah, pretty sure," José says, "Diego can find out just about anything because of his connections."

"But there's never any guarantees," Roberto says.

Isn't that the truth.

Friday, September 3, 2010

It's September And the Crickets Are Chirping

The crickets are loud night. They get that way in the fall. It probably takes them all summer to grow big enough to be able to make the noise chirping they do. It's amazing how loud they are, even with the window closed. The sound comes right through it. Their chirps are so consistently uniform. It's hard to fathom the mechanics of it all, and to rightly understand what they are all about in making that sound; to understand it I would have to Wikipedia it.

So it's September third already. We're into the short month of September, and it'll pass by so very quickly. Too quickly. The days are cooler and shorter and the leaves on the trees are all tired out after being in the sun all summer long. Tomorrow I need to reseal our asphalt driveway. Today I got it ready to do tomorrow morning. It's supposed to be warmer tomorrow, then midday start turning cooler until on Sunday it is quite cool.


We arrive in Nogales between 10:30 and 11 PM.

"We're here," José says.

"Where?" I ask. I've been asleep; I finished the book long ago and there wasn't much else to do.

"At the bus station in Nogales," José says.

It is dark, and the streets are quiet. Quiet, that is, until we step off the bus and hear the chirp of the crickets. I guess they have waited all summer to sing their one-note song.

"What now?" I asked.

"I'll call," he says. José looks around as we get into the station, and then he goes and uses the pay telephone to call his friend, Roberto, who lives there. Roberto then comes in his beat-up pickup truck and gets us and takes us to his house and lets us sleep in the basement. It's not really a basement; it's more like a cave. It is a crawlspace that has been dug out to make room to stand up in, or, in our case, to lie down in.

Tomorrow José and Roberto will take me to the desert along with a five gallon plastic jug of water, a straw hat, and a compass. They will then show me where to go, and I will go into the desert and wait for José there to come with Papa. I will have the water for me while I wait and for them when they come.

After they take me and show me where to go, Roberto will take José to the border in Nogales, and José will simply walk across. It doesn't take any magic to walk across the border going from the United States into Mexico, at least that's what José and Roberto tell me. Nobody cares in the United States if you go back to Mexico — well, lots of people might celebrate — and for sure nobody cares in Mexico. At least that's what they say.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Alta, Wyoming

I'm supposed to list out some places that have significance to me. And then I'm supposed to write about one of them for a while.

Alta, Wyoming

Star Valley Ranch, Wyoming

Carlsbad Caverns Cave

Rockford, Illinois

The San Diego Zoo



Twin Falls, Idaho

Boise, Idaho

Munich, Germany

Coburg, Germany

I'll write about the first one.

Alta, Wyoming isn't a place I ever would've gone to without the influence of friend. The friend's name is James Lee Christiansen. I first met Jim in Boise not long after we moved there from Twin Falls, Idaho.

At church, they asked me to teach a lesson in priesthood meeting, so I did. I don't remember the subject matter of the lesson exactly, however, I do remember relating the story relative to the three German youth who belonged to the Mormon church during the Third Reich and the reign of Adolf Hitler who took up a private campaign against the Nazis and Hitler in particular. The leader of the three youth ended up beheaded. The other two were imprisoned and tortured until delivered by the Americans.

After I completed the lesson, Jim Christiansen came up to me to discuss the story further. I learned that he had enjoyed my use of it as an example for the lesson and that he was a professor of sociology at Boise State University. Thereafter, we became friends. Jim was a unique character. He was devoted to self-reliance and primitive ways. For example, he made his own clothes, often from homemade leather. It wasn't unusual for him to ask a farmer for the hide of a steer that he would then treat and utilize to make clothing and shoes. He was also a jogger, and in those early years he often ran marathons. I remember one trip we took to the Idaho Falls Temple on a bus with the rest of the people who wanted to go from our stake in Boise. As the bus approached Boise after the trip, Jim stripped off his clothing and stuffed it into his suitcase, left the suitcase with a friend, and talk the bus driver into letting him so he could run home.

Anyway, Jim was born in Alta, Wyoming. Where is Alta, Wyoming? Most people are acquainted with Teton National Park and know where it's located. Many who have visited the park have also visited Jenny Lake, one of the most frequented locations in the park. At Jenny Lake, visitors can hike down to lakeside, catch a boat to the other side, and visit a waterfall or hike further up the trail of the canyon beside the stream that provides much of the water that flows into the lake. If you hike up the canyon and climb over the mountains on the trails there into the canyon that comes out the other side of the Teton Mountains, you'll come to Grand Targee, the famous ski resort, and further on down the road you come to Alta, Wyoming. If you go much further than Alta, Wyoming you'll be in Idaho. If you keep going down the road you'll come to Driggs, Idaho.

Alta is a small town. I think it is incorporated as a town, but there is not much of an infrastructure there. Jim grew up there. He has a "house" there that is as rustic and unique as the clothing he made and wore back then. His mother's house is still there on the side of the road that runs from Driggs on up to Grand Targee. Jim and his wife invited us to that rustic house and we went there many times.