Writers Laughing: Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald

These two have haunted me for years. So beautiful. So doomed.

Ah well, it’s good to see them laughing:


And this – well, this is just fantastic:


More blogging carnage tomorrow. Enjoy the writers laughing…until the twilight sets in… (How’s that for an onward and upward? Onward and upward…into the dying sun and the dark night of fate…!? I’m blaming Scott and Zelda! Poor, poor Scott and Zelda…)

Image Credits: Princeton University, listal.com


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Back to the Best! Top Post of the Year #3

Wow! It’s been a fun week here on the Jacke Blog, as we’ve counted down the most popular posts of my first year of blogging. And of course, we’ve also forced ourselves to recognize the least popular.  (I’m still getting over the pen reviews! I had forgotten about those! I’m surprised WordPress didn’t revoke my blogging privileges.)

Back to the winners! Number three!

People, this one has a special resonance for me for many reasons. First, I’ve been incredibly moved by the many comments of people who have said how affected they were. I think there’s something indelible about the experience of teaching and learning music that most people file away somewhere. There are powerful emotions beneath the surface, sitting untapped. And then along comes a song, or a face – or in this case a story - that stirs them up.

There’s something else at work here: these are childhood emotions. But when you recall them as an adult, you see them through an adult’s eyes and understanding. I was one of Ms. Steiner’s pupils, a ward in her care. But now I see her as sort of a comrade-in-arms: one of the many people trying to pass along wisdom to today’s young people. Except she was completely crazy. The kids had broken her.

And so I also have an adult’s camaraderie – a survivor’s mentality – that I share with the others who had her as a teacher (or who had teachers like her). Many of these people have reached out to me. It has been astonishing how widely this little post has traveled.

And of course, this one also had the amazing followup post, in which an old friend of mine sent me a photo of a painting that her father, a French artist, had painted. A painting of the teacher sitting behind his daughter at the piano, which he was inspired to paint after watching one of their lessons. A painting, as I noted the first time around, which contained for me every memory of those days on that dark, cavernous stage, doing my best to learn an instrument that I could only play in my imagination.


I clown around a lot here on the Jacke Blog. And the story itself is rife with humor – I can’t read it without laughing, which is probably not the sort of thing I should admit, but there you go. I do. Ms. Steiner and I were quite a pair. It all cracks me up, every time I run through it.

But I’m serious about how grateful I am for the many comments you’ve sent me. This has been one of the highlights of my blogging year, and it’s made all the efforts of writing and posting and taking care of the mechanics seem more than worthwhile. Thank you, everyone.

So…ladies and gentlemen…

Top Post #3 of the First Annual Jacke Wilson Blogiversary Week Celebration

A History of Jacke in 100 Objects #7 – The Keyboard

Every kid in town was afraid of the music teacher.

The grownups didn’t understand this. Miss Steiner had been teaching forever – she had taught the grandparents of some of my classmates – and when she had been young she had apparently been kind and patient and not yet disillusioned. To us, though, she was impossibly old.

And worse than being old, she had gotten mean.

At least it seemed mean at the time. Now I think it was probably a vast internal cauldron of frustration, simmering for years, now boiling over. Decades of teaching music to elementary school children had taught her one thing: children are terrible at music no matter what you do. And the corollary statement: if you are someone who loves music, then observing this phenomenon up close, day after day, year after year, will destroy you.

By the time our generation came along, Miss Steiner was desperate to save Music from the butchering hands of grade school kids with no talent. She would accompany soloists at recitals, pounding the keys of her piano in an attempt to drown out some poor clarinetist murdering a rendition of “I Love You Truly.” She played with desperation, as loud as she could, sweating and clenching her teeth and gasping for breath at the end of each song. It was as if she had no choice – as if Music itself had demanded it of her. Continue Reading…

And the Followup Post:

100 Objects Special Interlude: The Music Teacher

Image Credit (painting): Gui Lessin 


Filed under Authors, Fiction, The History of Jacke, Writing

Blog Fail! Worst Post of the Year #3

It’s the Blogiversary here on the Jacke Blog. One year of bringing you the hits. And the duds.

We’re counting all of them down. So far we’ve seen a pair of Objects grabbing spots five and four on the list of most popular posts.

On the list of duds, we’ve seen a hopeless pen review and a half-hearted commentary on a new name for ebooks.

(Really, those pen reviews are hard to beat. “The dream dies.” That was my dream? I’m tempted to write an Object about those two posts.)

I’m not sure what to make of the next one. I put a lot of effort into it. I thought I had something important to say about an important and timely topic (i.e., the changes to the publishing world). I linked to an article at The New York Review of Books. 

I even used the phrase “Skirt-Chasing Poobah.” Is Google not indexing my site? That must be a phrase that people are typing in.

I did all these things and more. This was a serious commentary on a serious review of a serious book! I spent half a cross-country flight putting it together!

And…you hated it. Your indifference was humbling.

Ah well. Perhaps we don’t need stories about the Kings of Publishing and how they’re dying out. Maybe we just need to look forward. Maybe we’re too busy creating our own new paths.

The Revolution Will Not Be Blogged!

Or rather – the Revolution will be blogged. But the ancien régime will not.

Or rather – the ancien régime will be blogged. But no one will care!

Failed Blog Post of the Year #3

The Kingdom of Publishing


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Winner! Top Post of the Year #4!

We’re counting down the top posts of the year here at the Jacke Blog. (As well as the worst.) It’s probably not a surprise for those of you following the Jacke Blog that so far the Objects are taking home the prizes. I’ve been very grateful at the response to these – the Blog really started to take off when I started posting them. And the comments and feedback have been so positive they have flooded my heart with joy. Thank you, Wonderful Readers!

What are the Objects? Stories. That’s it. Sometimes a little supernatural. Sometimes closely related to my own life. Sometimes not. Fiction, more or less.

Stories about being a boy in Wisconsin, and a college student in Chicago, and a vagabond, and a teacher, and a pursuer of literature, and an admirer of people who can do things, and an itinerant worker, and a wayward but ardent father, and a dutiful grandson.,,

All those things. And many more.

And of course, the popular post about the time I invented a quasi-religion through a simple act of refusal.

Top Post of 2013-2014 #4

A History of Jacke in 100 Objects #18 – The Monopoly Game Piece


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The Countdown of Ugh Continues! Worst Post of the Year #4

It’s been a great year here on the Jacke Blog. We’re celebrating our twelve-month anniversary by posting the most and least popular posts of the year, as measured by your hits. Or lack thereof!

Today we’re at #4 of our countdown of ugh. I’m including a pair of posts, each of which could stand (sit?) in the bottom five on their own.  I think you need to see them together to see how wretched they truly were.

Words fail me. I don’t even now how to begin to describe these. What was I thinking?

Well, apparently I thought – hey, here’s a blog for people who like good stories, maybe a blog for writers, a blog for lovers of literature and philosophy, so maybe I should…review pens! A writing tool!

Except I didn’t really review them. I linked to a review of them. And then I added sort of a drifting promise that I would try one out.

People, you were right to give this one no attention whatsoever! I would not even say it’s a good Facebook post. I would not even say it’s a good tweet.

Here’s the post in its entirety.

Continue reading


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Writers Laughing: J.R.R. Tolkien

Love this one…



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Blogiversary Week – The Ecstasy of an Object

Okay! It’s One-Year Anniversary Week here at the Jacke Blog, and we’re counting down the most and least popular posts of the year, as voted upon by you the readers (via your page views these past twelve months).

This morning we started things off with a wayward post about renaming the ebook.  I concluded that I should have renamed the post. Or not written the thing at all. A miserable little creature.

But this is more exciting! The countdown to the most popular! And here we are at number 5.

Jacke Wilson’s Blogiversary Celebration

Most Popular Posts of 2013-2014 #5

A History of Jacke in 100 Objects #15 – The Coffepot

This is the story of a young man who was an excellent speller. He won seven spelling bees in a row, dominating the competition year after year after year. And then, in the eighth grade, with a trip to regionals (and state! and nationals!) on the line, this champion lost for the first time in his life, shocking the town.

How could this happen? How did he stumble?

Readers, I have some tough news to deliver. A difficult set of truths.

The Eighth Grade Spelling Bee of Cadbridge, Wisconsin, in the Year of Our Lord 1984, was fixed. Completely rigged. The boy, the potential champion, lost on purpose. For reasons that remained murky for years, he threw the bee.

I know because I was that boy.

It was the worst thing I ever did. But not for the reasons you might expect. Keep reading…

Ah yes. The story of attempting to throw a spelling bee, with a couple of surprise twists. A tough one to write. An easy one (hopefully) to read. Enjoy my misery, people!

I’m not surprised to see this one here. People remember those spelling bees, and they remember the feeling of  being an adolescent longing to fit in, and they remember teachers like the one in the story.

I’ve gotten a lot of feedback on this one, including an email from an eighth grade classmate, who himself is now the principal of a school. “I could still kick your ass for doing that,” he said.  If only I’d known that at the time! I was in a strange place called Puberty, where chemicals race through your body and your brain is hyperaware, hyperfocused, and often hypermisguided.

But I’m glad the story came through and resonated with readers. At least there’s that.

Congratulations, Coffepot! You’re the fifth most popular post of the year!

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