Category Archives: Writing

Shooting 50,000 unsolicited words at the Universe

Hi readers.  Thanks for coming by for a read this morning.

Jeanne tells me November’s going to have several thousand people grinding out first drafts of immortal prose again.  Poor old Universe will be ducking and dodging new characters, events, plots, subplots, trying to keep track of what’s really happening, and what someone dredged up from the imagination and stuffed into 50,000 words packed into the month of November.

I’ve wondered about this phenomenon for a longish time, several years, and honestly can’t quite figure it.  Probably tens of thousands of November novels written in past years nobody but the authors ever laid an eye to all the way through.  Pages, electrons on the screen, characters floating around in the ether wondering what the hell happened, why their pent-up events just ground to a halt.

All I can figure is those people doing that are trying to shoot down the Universe and know it’s going to take a lot of ammunition.

If a person were looking for a worthy project that would be less likely to damage the Universe he might consider taking the JRR Tolkein Lord of Rings trilogy and working it up into a second draft, which wossname, Tolkein failed to do.  At least not the part about say, cutting about 2/3 of the extraneous immortal prose, working it around so it’s tight, a pleasure on the tongue of the Universe, rather than just something out of some fast food joint.

Maybe someone everyone does what he says will think of this sometime and tell them they ought to do that instead of picking out targets of opportunity trying to shoot down the Universe.

Old Jules

Philosophy by Limerick: Victimless Criminals – Whores, Druggies, and Drifters

The criminal justice system
Jailed ‘em where nobody missed ‘em
Growth industry smudges
Cops lawyers and judges
And private jails sure should have kissed ‘em.

Old Jules

Crazy Anger

Good morning readers.  Thanks for coming by for a read this morning.

I overslept, which almost never happens to me.  Thoroughly pissed-off the chickens [their protests finally woke me] and the felines.  Appropriate enough, I suppose, because I came out of sleep seething with anger.  An anger that’s been simmering inside me for a few days, but I somehow was ignoring.

One of my favorite authors, Sir Terence David JohnTerryPratchett[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terry_Pratchett], Jeanne told me, has himself a case of Alzheimer’s.  Hell, evidently he announced it to the public in 2007 and everyone in the world but my humble self knew it.  Not that my knowing of it would have made any difference, except maybe if I’d been digesting the fact I’d have reacted in a more rational way than I did having it come as a surprise.

Found, I did, that I’d almost been thinking of Pratchett almost as a family member or close friend gradually over the years, which also caught me by surprise.  The guy has a mind works so similarly to my own that when I read his books I sometimes found myself sort of juxtaposed, me creating his character, his dialogue, his plot, laughing as I did it.

So, time to go root hog or die back into my anger management rituals, I reckons.  Time to bring discipline and routine back into the gratitude and forgiveness affirmations.

Forgiving old Terry for maybe dying before I do.  Forgiving myself for being the flawed bastard I am, falling off the wagon, letting anger seep into my head.  Forgiving the Universe for tossing a challenge of the sort Alzheimer’s brings into our lives which seem plenty challenging enough already, everything else being equal.

I’m surely going to miss knowing Terry Pratchett’s out there doing what I ain’t doing better than I could have done it.

Old Jules

The Limerick Masters of Yesteryear – The Lost Artform

By the time I arrived at adulthood the state of the limerick as a masterpiece of the literary foil was in alarming decline.  Playboy Magazine attempted to inject new life into the medium during the 1960s and 1970s by paying $500 for limerick submissions accepted for publication.  The selection process was tough and they accepted only true masterpieces.

During those years I submitted no fewer than ten [10] limericks per month and never had one accepted.  Hundreds of limericks.  There was no place in Playboy for second-rate hacks.

While the artform requires a particular meter, the truly well-constructed one needs more.  Internal rhyming.  Puns.  Lilting beat to simulate waves on a beach.  A joy to the tongue and ear. 

To illustrate my point, here is perhaps the best limerick ever written, once published in Playboy:

The new cineramic emporium
Is not just a super-sensorium
But a highly effectual
Heterosexual
Mutual masterbatorium.

Every time I run those timeless words through my mind, I’m humbled.

I don’t know whether the image at the top of the page depicts a man who once wrote limericks and submitted them to Playboy.  He almost certainly could have.  Possibly should have.

He might have been a contender.

Old Jules

Philosophy by Limerick – The Talk Radio Host

The trailer-parks listens and smiles
Echo his simplistic beguiles.
While those up on Wall Street
Applauded his drumbeat
Koch Brothers just sponsored his wiles.

Old Jules

Paradigm Shifts – Same Song, New Shorter Stanza

Time was, ages 15, 25, 35, 45, 55, an inordinate time without hearing from a friend, he’d pick up the phone.  If nothing came of it, wondering whether he pissed the person off, whether something’s wrong.  Does a bit of memory searching about the last meeting, conversation, communication trying to recall anything sour.

Decades roll by and a person goes through a lot of friends, discovers a lot who’d been thought of as friends weren’t, discovers there was no bottom to it, or the bottom was too soft to hold an anchor.  Realizes people need to have elbow-room and it might as well include a lack of interest in continuing communication with whomever they wish.  Just bugs on the windshield of the time machine.

“Wonder what ever became of old Jimbo Watkins,” a person muses.  “Best man at his wedding.  Can’t recall seeing him much after his 25th Anniversary party.  Hmm.  Most likely dead, I reckons.”

“Wonder what ever became of old David McCreary.  Stayed in touch and visited all those years.  God-Father to his kids, watched them grow up.  Last I heard he was teaching English in China somewhere.  Had a Chinese wife.

“Hmm.  Most likely dead, I reckons.”

As late as the 1990s I must have seen things this way, because I wrote it:

To Stanley, Hank, and Others
Gone before

Eyesight blurs with years;
Silty pond of vision clears
Legion days march past,
Blend the timbre, tones;
Common denominator of sound
Runs down
Stirs a rich musical soup
Of drum, of trumpet,
Crash of boot on pavement,
Of human voice, human words,
Singing murmur of human
intercourse;
Cacophony in a foreign tongue
But hearing deepens.
“What’s that you say?
Cupped hand behind ear;
Study in vain his moving lips
Behind the roar;
Puzzle the melting printed word,
Uncomprehending,
Dawns the underlying truth,
River of comprehension
Beneath the racing chaos
Of the spoken word,
The printed page.
Blindness recedes
With failing sight;
Deafness fades
As hearing dies.
Oh, dear life.
Dear muted daze
Fast-forward
Psychedelic film
Of lost unknowing.
Poor, desolate ghosts
Lost in forgotten trails
Of yesteryear,
Wander on.
Take heart in your despair
Mute the silent horror;
Calm the wild
Searching eye
And rest.
And rest in peace.

From Poems of the New Old West

————————

All that damned drama.  Sheeze.  Seems completely foreign to me today.  Words someone else wrote.

Most likely just dead,” works a hell of a lot better.  Or if I’m feeling verbose, a limerick.

Old Jules

The Illusion of Survival

Several years ago during that pesky time when the publishing house had accepted Desert Emergency Survival Basics for publication, but I hadn’t yet seen the contract they were proposing, the editor was asking for re-writes and a number of changes in the final draft. We discussed it on the phone a number of times and I was pecking away at it, but holding back until I’d seen what they were bringing to the table. 

But before I got too far along I got a call from him because of a news event.  A family in Oregon, or Washington had taken a back road in the National Forest, gotten snowed in, and died because they didn’t apply some of the basics suggested in the Survival Book.

Him:  The scope of the book is broader than the name suggests.  It shouldn’t require a lot of work to make it a general survival manual.

Me: A lot of work’s already gone into it.  And I’ve already re-written it the way you suggest earlier.  You’ve got it in front of you.  Before I do any more work on it you and I need to talk about money.  Every time I’ve asked about what you’re offering as an advance you’ve hedged.  Said you needed to discuss it with the boss.

Him:  We don’t usually offer much in the way of advances.  We’re not that big, even though we offer a lot of titles.

Me:  Then you and I probably don’t have much to talk about.  You know and I know I’m never going to see a penny beyond the advance.  I have a fair idea what’s contained in your standard contract.  I’m not going to lift another finger on this book until I see an advance, and if it’s not enough to pay for my time already, hearing you’re going to be flexible about changing the contract details.

Him:  I’ll talk to the boss.  But that book needs to be published.  That family might have survived if they’d read it.

Me:  I’ve got some survival issues of my own here.  Hypothetical people who might die won’t pay my rent.  I’ve already done the work.  But if you’re proposing to print that book and give it away so neither of us makes anything on it what you’re saying might make sense.  Appeal to my better nature.

Him:  I can’t do that.  We’re in business.

Ultimately they sent me the standard contract and offered a token advance.  The willingness to alter the details of the contract didn’t include changes that would have allowed me to eventually get paid for my labor by eliminating provisions for them to squirm out of paying.

I’ve thought about that a lot over the years and eventually concluded the entire concept of survival and survival books qualifies as a cruel hoax.  An ironic illusion.  Because human beings are going to experience death inevitably as a means of exiting the vehicle.  Some are going to die getting lost in the woods.  If they survive getting lost it’s almost certainly going to be luck, instinct, or common sense.

As an example, somewhere earlier on this blog I described a snowstorm Keith and I got caught in on Santa Rita mesa, and how the GPS seemed to be lying about where the truck was.  How we believed the GPS instead of what we knew to be true, and more-or-less quickly found the truck.

That same snowstorm, not too far away, a kid was lost.  The news was full of it, Search and Rescue eventually was ready to give him up for dead.  But the kid, clothed in a light jacket, used his brain, sheltered under a rock ledge, and made it out after five unlikely days.

Which isn’t at all the same as saying the kid survived.  He won’t.  Neither will anyone else.

Old Jules