1 April 2015

The Red Dog: Kind

By: Jon Katz
The King Red Dog

The King Red Dog

Someone asked me to describe Red in one word, and I answered quickly: kind. For all the authority he shows to the sheep, he is kind, there is a sweetness and generosity about him that Dr. Karen Thompson described to me when she told me that he was the dog for me. This is the best description of him. He is exceptionally kind to people, so many are drawn to touching him and looking into his eyes. He is kind to me and all of the animals here.

He is poignantly kind in his therapy work. He even kind to his sheep unless somebody challenges or defies him, and then he can be firm, but never firmer than he needs to be. I caught him looking up at me this morning in the light coming through the window, and I thought the photo captured the kindness in him.

Posted in General

Morning Breath In The Cold

By: Jon Katz
Morning Breath In The Cold

Morning Breath In The Cold

In the morning, I can see Red's breath in the cold. There is something primal about it.

Posted in General

Spring Shadows: Taking Anger Seriously?

By: Jon Katz
Taking Anger Seriously

Taking Anger Seriously

A friend of mine told me that someone had gone on her website and started staying nasty things about me and calling me names over things I have been writing lately about the New Inquisition over animal abuse. My friend is a loving and polite person, and she responded thoughtfully and courteously, as she always does. The last line she wrote caught my eye; "Have you written to Jon?," she asked? "He is good at responding to these kinds of inquiries…although he may not take you seriously if you call him names.  it is unnecessary…"

Several things struck me about her very gentle reply. First, it was Secondly, it was very perceptive, about anger and about me. I have a lot of anger in me, and have worked to deal with it and understand it and control it. By and large, I have been successful. Some things can provoke me,  but not many and not for long. I am too grateful for my life to argue it with strangers. And perhaps it is true that people mellow with age. I believe I have mellowed with age, in my remaining time, I would rather do so many things than argue.

One way I deal with the rage online and in our world is to not argue about the things I write.  My life is not an argument, neither are my ideas. You can take them or leave them but you can't tell me what to write or how to think.

It would be easy with Facebook and Twitter to argue all day – many people do – and the anger and cruelty out there is breathtaking. I do not even believe it is real.  I often wonder why we treat one another that way? I don't know, I think it is easy to start judging people online, and that leads to rage and narcissism and self-righteousness. We can't simply tolerate ideas we don't agree with, many people need to attack them and the person who offered them.

Mostly, I hear from good and interesting people, even when they disagree. There is really not that much anger around me. It is not allowed on any of my sites, I think anger is just fuel for more anger. You cannot have a healthy discussion with unhealthy people.

Maria and others believe that I love stirring the pot up, and maybe I do. It isn't conscious, I do believe my job is to make people think, that's what writers have always done and are supposed to do. But my friend's message was very interesting to me, because I saw that she was right. I never take name-calling or rage seriously, I never listen to it or hear the messages.

I think people who send angry or hateful messages are disturbed, they are not well or happy. One good friend prays for them when she comes across the furies online.

And the sadness in that is that quite often there are things to learn in those messages, things worth thinking about, obscured by cruelty and rage. So maybe something for me to think about it. There is always something to gain from someone else's message, that is how I can grow and learn. Even if we forget it sometimes, we are all human beings, all on the same side in some very obvious ways. We live on the earth and we die on the earth.

Posted in General
31 March 2015

The New Writer’s Life: Thanks For Subscribing, Subscriptions Matter

By: Jon Katz
Subscriptions Matter

Subscriptions Matter

I've learned to be direct and transparent when it comes to being paid for my work. I couldn't do it for a long time, now I like it, being paid for one's work is a basic human right, especially for a writer.

It's a good thing, it's time, and it matters, financially and creatively. I realize this week – especially when contemplating my taxes – that I've been essentially working for free for much of the past year writing about the New York Carriage Horses,  Joshua Rockwood,  and several other people and issues in need of attention.  Nobody made me, I wanted to do it.  I take full responsibility for myself. The real subject behind all of these issues is the future of animals in our world, I want to keep writing about that and researching it.

That has also been very time-consuming and expensive, it involves travel and many hours of research. Animals have altered my life, saved it in some ways, I owe them this much at least.

I also want very much to continue to share my life on the farm, with Maria, the dogs and donkeys, my wonderful community, my poetry, photographs and changes. Lots coming this year – books, blog posts, a pony, a dog or two. And there is lots of good stuff already here to share – Red, his therapy and herding work, the sheep, Lulu an Fanny, my wife's endless genius. Our creative lives, our love and connection.

I've loved this writing and photo-sharing on the blog and it means a lot to me.But it is yet one more reason why subscriptions in support of the blog matter. I write about subscriptions rarely, the last time was a few months ago, and I was heartened that a number of people subscribed, either to my P.O. Box (P.O. Box 205, Cambridge, N.Y., 12816, via credit cards of by Paypal.

The subscription program is new, and it makes a huge difference in my writing life. As traditional publishing evolves, or devolves,  writers, like musicians and artists, need to find and construct new models for earning a living and being paid for their work. Subscriptions make it possible for the blog to remain free, even to those who can't afford to subscribe. And the blog is now the most important element in my writing work and photography.

Subscriptions make it possible for me to write about the carriage horses,  the future of animals in our world, the growth and sometimes disturbing nature of the animal rights movement,  about Joshua Rockwood, the young Glenville, N.Y. farmer who was charged with 13 counts of animal abuse and neglect, and who I believe – and many others believe – has been unjustly accused.

My regular paying work – my books – remain an important part of my life. I will never give up on books, I've written 28 of them,  although revenue from hard cover books has plummeted.  My blog, which draws about four million visits a year, is the centerpiece of my writing and my creative life. And I love doing it, it is the right venue for me. I consider it my living memoir, my great work. I am committed to being honest and open here, even when it is not pleasant or easy.

I have a contract for my next book Talking To Animals, and a voice in my head says that is paying work and contract work, stop everything and finish it.

I don't seem able to completely do that. I am working on my book every week and very much loving it, but I am also drawn to continue to pursue these other subjects as well. Subscriptions help me do that, they pay for the maintenance of the blog, they support my photography, which I also give away free online (…I see a pattern here.)

So I'm reminding all of you once again to consider subscriptions, they pay me for your work, as I hope you are paid for yours.

Subscriptions are essentially payments in support of the blog, it's maintenance, the photographs, the time spent writing. I don't have any mugs or trinkets to offer you. They just help me pay for it, and for the hard work that goes into it, just about every day. Those of you who are not online or don't wish to go there can subscribe by mailing checks to me at P.O. Box 205, Cambridge, N.Y., 12816.

There are other subscription options. Whatever you decide to pay, you will have access to the complete blog, there are no tiers or partial plans. I offer different amounts because people have different abilities to pay.  You can subscribe for $3 a month, $5 a month, or $60 a year. Subscriptions can be canceled at any time, and there is automatic reminder e-mailed to you 51 weeks after you subscribe, so that you decide whether to cancel or renew at the end of one year. No credit card or financial data is ever  stored on my blog or on any server attached to my blog. You can use credit cards or Paypal.

There are two different  security companies that protect and monitor the blog and filter messages.

I also ought to say that I have no access to any of your financial information, I cannot add subscribers or cancel them, there are very simple ways for you to do both. That is for your own protection, and I don't want access to your money or to get bogged down in doing that. I sometimes see the names of subscribers as they enroll, I do not keep track of who subscribes and who doesn't. I understand when people have pressures and need to cancel. My blog has millions of visits, a very small fraction of them subscribe in any way. This is the nature of Internet marketing for writers and musicians, large numbers of people paying small sums of money. It does add up, or so we hope.

So there is room to grow, and I want and need to grow. My blog is important, and expensive. It costs thousands of dollars a year to maintain. And I would like to grow it further.

So thanks for considering subscriptions, we have tried to make them as comfortable as possible for everyone. If you can't subscribe or don't wish to, the blog is still free for you to access. So many of you never gave up on me, I will never give up on you.

In my former life as a best-selling author, I never had to think about money, and I would never have solicited subscriptions or talked about money at all. It was considered beneath the dignity of a New York Times bestselling author. Big shots do not have to do that. I am in a new place, happy and creative and inspired, but not a big shot anymore, at least not in that way. Like everyone reading this, I have to think about money. This the life I chose, the life I love.

I am a lucky man. I am proud of my blog and want to keep it vital and strong and creative. I want to be a pioneer in showing the way for writers to make a living online. I embrace change, I don't whine about it. Many people, I think, are beginning to understand that they get what they pay for, and the work of an artist or writer ought to be paid for, if creativity is to flourish and prosper.

So thanks for reading, and for considering subscribing. I hope you find the blog worthwhile. With your help I will continue to write about the things that matter, and that are important to me and hopefully, to you.

Posted in General

Poem: I’m Your Man

By: Jon Katz
"I'm Your Man"

"I'm Your Man"

Thanks for the inspiration for the "Title" and the poem to the poet and musician Leonard Cohen. He told a reporter he spent  years living as a Buddhist monk and when he came out of the monastery, he was just as big a jerk as when he went in.


I'm Your Man

"If you want a good man,

I'll support everything you do,

and if you want some feedback,

I'll provide that too.

I'll wear yellow shirts for you,

and if you want to dance,

grab my hand,

Or if you want to be alone to do your work,

well, here I stand.

I'm your man,

If you want a fighter,

I will take an army on for you,

And if you want a lover,

I'll examine every inch of you,

And if you want a doctor,

I'll check your heart,

and if you want to take a ride,

just climb inside.

Or if you want me to take a hike,

you know I will,

And if you want to take a walk with me,

I'm your man.

The sun's too bright,

the moon's too light,

the chains will never break.

The dogs will never go to sleep.

I've been counting all the promises I've ever made to you,

the ones I could not keep,

I hope you will forgive me,

I am begging on my knees,

I'll never get you back by crawling.

Then I'll fall flat on my feet,

and beg the moon,

and gasp at your beauty,

like a cow in heat.

And I'd grab for your soul,

and I'd reach for your heart,

And I'd kiss your sweet feet,

I'm your man.

And if you want to be alone,

I'll wave a wand and vanish for you,

if you want to ride a horse,

I'll get the saddle for you,

and if you want to be with me awhile,

across the woods,

and down the road,

I'm your man.

And if you want some one to love you,

after all,

I'll be there for you,

and if you want another lover,

I'll disappear for you.

I'm your man."

Posted in General