Faith vs. Religion

god-mohawk-cartoon-characterI’ve been on a spiritual journey of late. I’ll spare you all the details—they’re scattered and frankly hard for me to corral—but in the last few years I’ve been trying to reconcile my feeling of connection with a higher power with the seemingly arbitrary (and sometimes hypocritical) boundaries of organized religion. I think we all have that connection, actually; I think a spiritual longing is a deeply embedded part of the human race. It’s part of us, the want for a connection with God. Some call it Christianity, some Islam, some fishing. Even atheism is a form of faith—such a steadfast belief that the only things that exist in the universe are those we can perceive with our limited human senses takes more faith than most religions, in my opinion.

But for years now, I’ve asked myself, “why this religion?” Can it really be that a single set of rules and regulations is the one way, truth, and light, and all others (most of which are shockingly similar at their cores) are flat wrong? What a coincidence it would be that the religion I was born into is the only one that counts. I’m already white and male. I can’t be that lucky.

Bob Ross Thursday (Netflix Edition)


Yes, friends, I’ve heard the good news. I’ve gotten the texts and tweets and notifications. June 2016 will go down as a milestone month, because the Happy Painter himself, the greatest man to ever grace our television screens, Bob Ross, is finally on Netflix.

This is a tremendous advancement for the cause, and is one more step toward our ultimate goal of having Bob Ross in every American household all the time. And Netflix’s twitter account is pretty hilarious right now—they keep quote tweeting random stuff and adding Bob quotes to it. Kudos, Netflix.

It’s a small step, though, as my sources indicate it’s just twenty-some episodes that are currently available, a paltry fraction of the full Joy of Painting collection. And, of course, us hardcore fans have known where to get our Bob fix all along—since YouTube lifted its restriction a few years ago, nearly the whole series (all 30+ seasons) is readily available there. I’ve been drifting off into quiet wonder on my iPad before bedtime for many moons, as I’m sure you have as well. No matter; the Netflix expansion is a way to reach the masses, and I can’t argue with that. Happy painting, friends.


Things That Do Not Impress Me

761. Criticizing Fox News and/or Nickelback.

I understand the negatives. I am aware. We all are. But these two are the lowest of low hanging fruit when it comes to criticism. They are also both filthy damn rich, which means they’re doing something to please someone, somewhere in the world. Let that be, and let’s move on to hunt the next witch.

Yes, one is a sad excuse for a news network, and the other has completely degenerated into the worst of thoughtless radio butt-rock. Pointing this out does not make you a deft observer, as is the subtext of so many Fox News and Nickelback criticisms. You’re not pulling back the curtain on some great evil. We are all right there with you.

2. Which celebrities are doing what.

I’ve decided this is one of the most useless interests a human being can have. Not to keep up with individuals you admire—a musician, a particular actor, perhaps—but to devote time to watching, reading, and observing what THE CELEBS! as a whole are up to. A hobby of keeping track of what other people are doing. Might as well pick up some binoculars and go sit in a bush.

Heading North

grandpa-webThere’s something about a solo road trip that’s always been vaguely adventurous to me. Even if you know the route—even if you’ve already done it dozens of times before—each time you hit the road, it seems like you’re exploring it all over again. Just you and the car and the highway, and some coffee and a big bag of beef jerky. A destination; a goal. A reliance on no one else to get there. Just yourself. An isolation from the outside world, for twelve or sixteen or twenty hours inside that car. Something out of the ordinary.

I’ve always liked road trips. I do one at least once a year, from Colorado to Minnesota, always getting up early, hours before sunrise, to hit the road and watch the first light break across the Nebraska plains. Thirteen hours through farm country—Nebraska (lengthwise), Iowa, southern Minnesota—doesn’t sound appealing, but I love it. It’s the heartland, the calloused palm of our country, and it’s where I’m from. It’s the places you’ll never see if you don’t go past them, because you’ll never travel there intentionally. It’s windmills and rolling green hills and hog farms. It’s America. The real America.

Last Thursday morning I got the call I’d been expecting. Grandpa died, it’s time to come home.

Hello Lodge, My Old Friend

Yesterday, I visited this here website for a reason I can’t remember, and was greeted by this scene:

Screen Shot 2016-03-28 at 2.28.03 PM

No, that isn’t my attempt at writing a shipping drama in olde english…that’s the default setting of the website theme. I have no idea how it reverted back, and no idea how long it’s been there, because honestly, I haven’t been coming here much lately. This is a point that brings me great shame, and one I was chastised for by a good friend over chicken carbonara last weekend.

“January 28,” he said.


“That was your last post on the Otter Lodge.”

Damn. Has it really been that long?

He went on to express his disappointment in my lack of commitment to the Lodge, and then voiced his frustration that I have too many email addresses. Not sure about the last part, but he does have one point: I need to either do this regularly, or not do it at all. I’m not yet sure which one it’ll be. But it’ll be one of them.

I used to blog just for the hell of it—just for fun, over on an old domain called “Top Drawer.” I threw up my rambling thoughts and rants on a regular basis, and generally enjoyed myself. That was fun. Through the years, I’ve been developing and curating a number of different projects (namely, writing books and going self-employed), and have tried to morph the blog to become more consistent with those projects, which, quite honestly, has been less fun. I’ve found myself worrying about whether or not a potential post would be “on message” (which, barf), or if anyone will even give damn about what I have to say. Needless to say, the blog didn’t get much attention. But last Saturday, my chicken carbonara conversation suggested I care less about those things, and just go back to blogging about whatever I want, which sounds like a much better time. So we’ll see.

For now, a book update:

Mercifully, I just finished the fifth (yep, fifth) draft of my latest novel, tentatively titled “The Bracket,” about a conspiracy to fix the NCAA basketball tournament. Currently, I feel good about it. Not sure what’s going to happen with it—might just sit on it for a while, might release it next basketball season, might do something else—but there’s no rush. I’ve spoken briefly with an agent about the book, so I’ll probably explore that and see if it makes sense. Currently, the manuscript is in the hands of the queen of the Lodge, and it’ll be showing up in the inboxes of some other valued beta readers before long. You know who you are.

Until next time, do your thing, and as my good friend Karl would say, stay the course.

Free Shit


I’m just ducking in here quick to mention I’m doing a Goodreads giveaway for 2 signed copies of The Call of the Mountain. These are actual, real, paper, books. What a concept! It runs for 10 days or so and is free to enter. You can do so here:

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Call of the Mountain by Sam Neumann

The Call of the Mountain

by Sam Neumann

Giveaway ends February 08, 2016.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

I’ll have more updates coming in a week or two. Until then, hug an otter and stay the course.