Publications
Child No More Print E-mail
San Diego Reader

20150722(San Diego Reader July 22, 2015)

Little for Sherry Sotelo growing up was how she wished it would be. She, her four siblings, and her mother lived wherever they could—in an accommodating relative’s house or a complex of two-bedroom apartments somewhere south of I-5. Her mother was single, with limited English, and hard-pressed to find work. When Sotelo was 12, her mother secured a job in Tijuana, so the family moved there. But then Sotelo wanted to go to school in the U.S., so she came back. She enrolled as a freshman at Hoover High, rooming “with whoever would let me stay.” After a while, she says, the loneliness got to her. “It was tough, not having my mom here, so I went back with her for another year.” At 15, she returned to San Diego. She began dreaming of a college education and a career in veterinarian medicine, yet still vulnerable to temporary quarters, no steady income, and a dearth of nutritious food.

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Hobby Lobby, Steve Green, & the New Bible Empire Print E-mail
Articles

FI AM cover copy(Free Inquiry April/May 2015)

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Steve Green, president of Hobby Lobby and son of its founder and CEO, David Green, loves to tell the story of the company’s brush with financial ruin and salvation via divine intervention. David founded the craft-supply store in 1972, at first a modest Oklahoma City picture-frame business. By 1985, Hobby Lobby had expanded to several more area stores and become the go-to supplier of gewgaws for home decorators and holiday artists.

It seems that the company erred in its enthusiasm, growing too big too fast. Soon it was slouching toward bankruptcy. As journalist Brian Solomon recounted in Forbes, David Green had “overleveraged the business and diluted the inventory with off-brand, expensive products like luggage, ceiling fans and gourmet foods.” David, an evangelical Christian, blamed himself for the sin of entrepreneurial pride.

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San Diego For Sale Print E-mail
San Diego Reader

20150401(San Diego Reader April 1, 2015)

Dr. Ken Anderson, the affable owner of Pacific Beach’s Anderson Medical Clinic, has his hands sagely folded, fingers interlaced, on his desk. He’s remembering the date, September 26, 2010. That day, the temperature over 100 degrees in Del Cerro, the humidity an untypical 78, he and his wife were playing another couple at the Lake Murray Tennis Club. The two pair were the only players at the club. In the middle of the third set, Anderson tells me, he went down: “I wasn’t breathing and I wasn’t moving.” His heart had stopped. Neither his wife nor their friends had any medical training, though his friend’s wife did notice an automated external defibrillator (AED) near the front desk. She ran for the device, put it beside Anderson’s motionless body, and unzipped the canvas top. The machine started speaking. It told them to apply the panels to his chest. Then, in robot voice, “Shock advised. Stand clear. Press the orange button. Shock delivered. Start CPR.” As a doctor, Anderson reminds me, he knows how perilous the moment was. “Had the AED not been there I would not have made it.” For cardiac arrest, which was his diagnosis, the heart needs to get back to its normal rhythm in five minutes—before the brain loses oxygen.

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Dick Cheney and the Worship of Torture Print E-mail
Essays and Memoirs

16577178-mmmain(Counterpunch February 10, 2015)

“I knew what I was doing,” Harry Truman said after the atomic bombs he ordered dropped not once but twice on Japanese cities—140,000 people dead in Hiroshima that night; 80,000 three days later in Nagasaki; many thousands more, slowly of radiation sickness. “I have no regrets,” Truman boasted. “Under the same circumstances, I would do it again.”

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Having None of It: Parenting Without Religion Print E-mail
Articles

Descent of the Modernists E. J. Pace Christian Cartoons 1922(Written February 2015)

The book the mother is showing me is Tomie dePaola’s Book of Bible Stories. It’s an illustrated first Bible, ages 4 to 8, which, according to the back cover, the author “lovingly brings to life.” She starts paging and stops, her nearly three-year-old son beside her, pounding Play-Doh. “OK, God creates the world, but then”—flipping pages and quoting text—“‘Adam and Eve disobey God,’ and ‘Cain kills Abel,’ and ‘God unleashes a flood’ and kills everyone but Noah and the family. Huh?” She pauses, huffs, and glances at her apartment’s mess—toy-strewn like Christmas morning. “I’m not going to read this to Justin. He’ll be terrorized.”

Thus begins, in this thirty-two-year-old Mom, as it does in millions of other secular parents, the once unorthodox, rhetorical questions. Why should my child know about a God who sanctions such continual violence? Why expose anyone to a religion I don’t believe in? Such queries are being asked and answered by millions of millennials—Pew Research, as of May 2015, shows 35 percent are Nones—who refuse to indoctrinate their children into any faith.

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Print (Almost) Anything Print E-mail
San Diego Reader

projectegg 4s(San Diego Reader January 28, 2015)

Because I’m a writer, I have always thought that among humankind’s most lofty inventions is the printer—the machine, not the person. Be it text or image, how would we know anything about the community we call home without copies of weekly magazines that feature glossy ads for breast enlargement and trend-chasing cover stories? For centuries, print technology has copied text and image onto paper, stone, wood, plastic, or any surface that will receive it. Of course, the copy is flat, sitting on, not rising up from, the surface. But what if we wanted to print something in three dimensions?

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This Shining Night Print E-mail
Essays and Memoirs

2012 0708 images 15 agee(Solstice Literary Magazine December 21, 2014)

We Are Talking Now of James Agee’s “Knoxville: Summer 1915”

In January 1971, I was living in Columbia, Missouri, where for two years I’d been an undergraduate English major at the University.(1) A surprise to literate me, I’d become pencil-sucking bored with my classes, especially the non-electives “Restoration Drama” and “Chaucer.” What’s more I’d also been struggling to write interior-laden short stories based on literary models that once excited me but now raveled through my head like cotton off a spinning jenny until I felt wire-whisked by their polish and mystery and woe—so, one day, just after my sixth semester began, I quit.(2) Because I had to, I got a job, part-time clerk at the University library. They said I could come in from one to five, work half days. Perfect. My mornings were free for writing.

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