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{Friday, December 31, 2004}

My new year's resolution is this: write more. It was last year's resolution, so who can say how successful I'll be, but I'm going to give it another go. I wrote more in 2004 than I did in 2003, and, if I didn't always finish what I wrote, it wasn't for lack of trying. Okay, it wasn't always for lack of trying. I'll be twenty-eight in 2005, and I've never published a short story outside of a college literary magazine, or an article outside of a school or volunteer newspaper. That really needs to change. I need to write more, try to publish, look for opportunities and create others. I need to write. I refuse to give up on 600 seconds. I refuse to give up on writing here just because I can't do it during the day, or because no one else is writing here, or there's no topic, or -- well, you know, that does seem a little sad, come to think of it. Where is everyone? Even when no one was writing -- and we've gone through our fair share of dry spells -- we had topics. We had people lurking in the shadows, sulking about how nobody ever writes anymore, and how they'd be writing if they had more time or weren't so busy or could get to a computer or whatever. I'm not saying that we don't have real lives, that we don't have excuses which aren't excuses, which are genuine reasons for not writing, but it is a little sad. But I'm going to continue writing. Because if I'm ever going to prove to myself that I'm a writer, I need to be writing every day. I need to finish what I start, put one word in front of the other, give myself license to write the wrong word from time to time, and keep at until I've gotten the right ones. I need to write elsewhere, too, need to look for paying markets for things I've written, expand the unfinished bits, maybe look for nonpaying markets for some of the other stuff -- the short-shorts, like some of the stuff I've written here. Some of it I really do like. Some of the stuff you've written here has been terrific, which is why it pains me when I don't see you writing more, or or more often. There's publishable material here. There's great stories, good beginnings, weird wordings, neat songs, cool poems, goofy bits, terrific stuff. To see a field like this capable of producing such terrific stuff as that just lie fallow is, as I said, a little sad. Some of the stuff here hasn't been that good, or it's been forgettable, or it's been too personal to matter to anyone else, or whatever. The point is, it's kept all of us writing. And that, for a writer, is key. The best advice for any writer, I think, is this: write. There's a wealth of other advice, more specific advice, but "write" encapsulates the heart of it. Even now, I'm just writing, not caring about exactly what I'm writing, trying to make it good or interesting or funny or whatever, but really just typing until my ten minutes are up. I'm writing this in Notepad, with Word Wrap on, so that I can't see more than a few lines of what I'm writing at any given moment. It's stopping my natural impulse to second-guess my words as I write them, to revise as I go along. I wouldn't have written "encapsulates the heart of it", for instance, if I wasn't just typing and letting things stand. I'd have deleted it -- in fact, did delete it, then decided that no, I would let it stand. I would just keep writing. Because that's my new year's resolution: to write. You may worry, then, that 2005 will be full of rambling paragraphs like this, and you might be quite right to worry. I can't guarantee that anything I write here or elsewhere is going to be any good. But I have to keep writing it. It's who I am. Maybe it's not who you are, I don't know. Maybe you've outgrown the need for the this kind of place, or for the kind of writing it offers, the exercise of it. Maybe you're just lurking more quietly in the shadows. Maybe real life has become too much of an intrusion of late and you can't make it here to write. Maybe you can make it here but then find that no one else has, so why bother, huh? I'm going to bother. I'm going to write. You can join me, you can help, you can write your own terrific wonderful things, or not. I don't know. I'm just going to be over in the corner, not quite in the shadows, writing. Let's hope at least a little of it is better, less rambling, than this.

by Fred 11:59 PM


by Fred 5:30 PM

{Monday, December 27, 2004}

"You know me too well."

by Fred 3:44 PM

{Friday, December 24, 2004}

I'm going to try to write for ten minutes, but I may be out the door in five, so not everything may go according to plan. I'm just going to follow my own advice, the advice I keep spouting here from time to time, and just put one word in front of the other. That's all that writing is. Revision is making sure they're the right words and making sure they work well together. But writing, or at least the important part of it, is just putting the words on the paper.

Granted, this isn't paper, but then these also aren't terrific words. Revising, I'd go back and make them better, fiddle around with things until I got it just right. I'd probably have gone off in an entirely different direction, not even talking about writing at all, just doing it, talking instead about the holidays, which is ostensibly what I set out to talk about in the first place. It is, after all the season -- and, maybe more to the point, the topic.

In maybe five minutes, maybe less, I'll be headed out the door to my grandparents' house to help set up for Christmas Eve dinner. In fact, I hear my sister calling me from downstairs now. We're going to go help set up, come back, and then go for dinner when my mother gets home from work. Putting one word in front of the other can be tough when you've got one foot already out the door.

But I digress. It's been maybe ten minutes, probably less. I honestly don't know. I'm just putting words down now, not caring much if they're the right ones or which ones they are. I'm writing. If I had it to revise, I'd likely have erased all of this. I'd have tried again, but if I stop now and try to try again, I might never get anything done.

So, for what it's worth and whichever ones they are, happy holidays.

by Fred 11:53 AM

Here it is, The Holiday, it snuck up on me like a mugger with a silencer and caught me with my pants down and my wallet falling out of the pocket. It's The Holiday, you know the one, and we all here are doing our best chickens with cut-off heads imitation, running around in circles with our wings flapping and blood spurting from our severed necks.

The smell of bananas is unmistakable in the air, and we struggle to get all the eggs boiled and dyed, the firecrackers lit, the masks arranged on our faces just so, the paper hearts cut out, the turkey stuffed. It's The Holiday, hurrah, hurray, and the parade begins at noon.

Did I mention the bananas?

For The Holiday, the bananas are strung by the chimney with care, in hopes that St. Balloon Juice is still full of hot air. We shovel coal and burn ritual logs, pop champagne corks and vie for the honor of first bankruptcy. Diamond-encrusted plum pudding? Please, seconds over here. Have you any bananas to go with that?

Some say The Holiday is under attack, that the reason for the season has been lost, obscured by clouds of fog or consumerism or perhaps just burning banana oil. But The Holiday endures, The Holiday abides, The Holiday buys the house a round and then takes a vacation on a tropical island where the tradewinds take the afternoon off and nap under palm trees.

Here's wishing all of you a happy The Holiday and more bananas than you can count with two hands.

by Generik 2:15 AM


by Generik 1:58 AM

{Wednesday, December 22, 2004}

When I was a boy, I had a pet peeve. I taught it to do tricks. You can't teach a peeve to do many tricks. Roll over. Play dead. Fetch, if you're really patient. But that's about it. Peeves aren't big on tricks. They're much more sit-around-the-cage pets. Or swim-around-the-tank pets, if you've got yourself an underwater peeve. My peeve was a land-peeve named Roger. I didn't name him Roger, but that's the name the shelter gave him. My mother adopted Roger from the shelter and brought him home for Christmas one year. I think she was trying to make up for the lousy months that had come before that, when we had to leave our apartment and sell our car and change my school. I would have preferred a puppy. You can teach puppies tricks -- I was lying: you can't even teach a peeve to play dead -- and they're a lot more fun to have around. Pet peeves are loyal, there's no denying that, but they're not a whole lot of fun. You can try playing with them, but there's not much use. What kind of game is a peeve going to know how to play? None, that's what kind. Peeves more or less just sit there. Sometimes, you don't even know it's there, can go days or weeks -- sometimes months -- without it ever bothering you, and then wham, it's back, right underfoot, looking up at you with those big peevy eyes. At least, that's how Roger always was. I gather Roger was something of a needy peeve, at least from what I've read on peeve-owner support forums or heard from other owners. Maybe that's from being a shelter-peeve, I don't know. He'd obviously been abandoned. But that apparently happens a lot. People just outgrow their pet peeves, I guess. It's sad, sure, from the peeves' point of view, but how long can you really keep a pet that doesn't do anything but annoy you?

by Fred 8:42 PM

pet peeves

by Fred 7:30 PM

{Tuesday, December 21, 2004}

"How's it going?" she asked. "We never see each other anymore."

"That's because I'm invisible," he said. "You're the one who made me drink the serum."

"We never just talk."

"That's because the other serum you made me drink, the one you said was a counter-agent, that left me speaking in tongues for a month."

"Speaking of tongues..."

"No, not again. Not until those spines go away. I can't believe you tested that third serum on yourself."

"Well you were busy. I tried to find you. I threw flour around the room, like they do in the movies, to coat you with."

"They do that in the movies?"

"They did it in a movie. Once. Not a very good one."

"I was gonna say. I was wondering why there was flour all over the floor. I just figured it was another serum."

"They're all gone. I fed the last one to the dog."

"I was wondering what that explosion was the other day."

"So, you didn't answer my question. How's it going?"

"Hey, can't complain."

by Fred 7:54 PM

How's it going?

by Fred 7:40 PM

{Saturday, December 18, 2004}

It is, perhaps, the single greatest literary tradition, is the terrible ode. Part of the tradition, of course, is pronouncing the word as if it were spellt "oad," and part of it is the use of bizarre spellings which would look absolutely diminished in "real life." The single most used convention with regards to this is to use not only odd and obscure spellings, but to add apostrophes where none are needed in modern speech and writing, as well as to throw out grammatical constructions which cause pain to even the most careless reader. Let's begin.
To write a properly terrible ode (say it with me, "oad"), you need a sweet sentiment. Today, we will be using "The Stars Make their Wishes on her Eyes." Now, for those of you in the know, those of you who haven't yet Googled the phrase, this is a selection from a sweet little love song by one mister Tom Waits. It is titled Coney Island Baby, and we will not be using anything else from this composition in our Terrible ode.
I'm sorry? Yes, Mister Jameson, we do often use rhyming words in Odes. Today, we perhaps shall. No, Mister Jameson, we will not follow nor precede this phrase with anything having to do with "sweaty thighs." You may excuse yourself, Mister Jameson.
Now, to the work of composing. In the classic tradition, once again, we shall "blow our wad" asitwere on the first lines of the ode. So, let's begin with the good phrase which we'll be using.
The Stars Make their Wishes on her Eyes.
Now, we shall rhyme this with a line which makes clear to any and all observers that we did not in fact compose that line.
The Stars Make their Wishes on her Eyes,
She's sitting on a wharf with twen'ty guys.

Yes. I think this does nicely. Now, this line is carefully constructed, please notice, to be both a little crude and completely unrelated. Also notice please the careful placement of the unnecessary apostrophy. Because of its placement there, the word has been rendered unpronucible. This was, per piaceri the purpose.
Now, the second set of lines in this verse must both give closure and change entirely the established metre scheme. My favorite line, at least from classic literature, is There's nobody else but her for me my dear. As such, this line will now be used, along with a horrible rhyme which will again change the meter.
The Stars Make their Wishes on her Eyes,
She's sitting on a wharf with twe'nty guys.
Thehrs nob'dy else my dear for me but hyr
Thet stands out 'pun the shing light from star to pyier.

Here again, we have used misspellings on purpose which are meant to resemble actual words and evoke a feeling of nausia and nostalgia for actual language, a feeling which I have (under trademark, mind you) called Naustalgia(tm). Now, for those who are fans of Tom Waits, please notice that we have not threatened his status as a far better user of the phrase about stars and eyes. This is important. It is very necessary that all derivative works of lit'rat'ure be absolutely lousy.
Now, if you'll open your copies of British Lit of the 17th and 18th Century, we will find several additional examples of the Terrible Ode. Your assignment is to find one of these which quotes a Tom Waits lyric (there are precisely seven), and turn in on Friday a seventeen page analysis of same.
You are dismissed.

by MisterNihil 1:07 PM

The Stars Make their Wishes on her Eyes

by MisterNihil 1:06 PM

{Monday, December 13, 2004}

Alright, here you go, kids: A girl on Flickr picked up some negatives from an estate sale and developed them. Based on a calendar caught in one of the pictures, it's likely that they're from 1958. One of the negatives was scratched out. She's offering a prize for a story inspired by these photos. (Take more than ten minutes. This is too good.)


by Sharon 1:39 PM

{Thursday, December 09, 2004}

slow day at work

by Fred 6:05 PM

{Wednesday, December 08, 2004}

Paul wasn't worried when the paperclips disappeared. Paperclips did that. Rubber bands, too, if you weren't careful. Put a project down, forget where you put it, come back, and the rubber bands were gone. Or there were never enough in the box, never as many paperclips as you remembered seeing there the day before, never the right number if you did the math in your head -- but you didn't do the math, not if you were Paul, not if you were anyone he knew. You shrugged and tossed the empty box, and you went to the supply cabinet and got more paperclips. Gnomes, you might say with a shrug. Paperclips gnomes. Or elves. Some people said elves; Paul usually went with gnomes. They'd always seemed more industrious to him, workers -- miners. They'd likely have more use for stolen paperclips and rubber bands.

So, no, Paul wasn't too worried. He'd only used five or ten paperclips from a box of two hundred. He didn't like doing the math in his head, but he knew the difference shouldn't have been the three that were left in the box. Paul should have had more paperclips, and more rubber bands, and that pair of scissors with the black handle that he'd swiped a week ago from the supply cabinet even though he rarely needed scissors for anything. Paul should have had supplies. But supplies ran out. Supplies went missing. Co-workers took them, they got tossed with the trash, night janitors stole them, or gnomes (or eleves) were rampant. It wasn't a big deal. Paul would just go to the supply cabinet and get more.

When he saw that the supply cabinet was gone, however, that's when Paul started to worry. It looked like the gnomes were kicking this thing into high gear.

by Fred 8:09 PM

I love having a house.

our house

Every day, it makes me happy.

For a new adventure, Jon and I got a holiday tree for the living room, in front of the fireplace. (I've got holiday cards hung from my mantle! Well, kinda. I have holiday cards that keep falling off of my mantle. But still, I have a mantle!) The one thing we don't have, though—the thing you collect over decades—is ornaments.

At a recent Toastmasters meeting, I led a group discussion (as part of the Discussion Leader advanced manual), collecting advice for the new homeowner. From the category of throwing parties came this gem: Potluck everything. Taking that advice to heart, we're having a potluck-ornament party, a Decorate Our Tree party.

We'll have ShrinkyDinks and build-your-own pizzas and Mexican hot chocolate. In our house.

I'll post pictures on Saturday. ^_^

by Sharon 5:14 PM

Short on supplies

by Generik 11:52 AM

{Monday, December 06, 2004}

You must be a loony!

by Fred 8:03 PM

{Friday, December 03, 2004}

What did I do for Thanksgiving? I relaxed. After the week I'd had -- which somehow, though shorter, seemed twice as long as the previous two weeks combined -- it seemed like the only sensible thing to do.

I have two bosses. One is in the office most of the time, the other works from home and comes in roughly once a week. Both of their bosses are in the UK, where the parent company is located, except from time to time when they like to drop in and see how we're getting on here across the pond. It makes sense, I suppose. The parent company only purchased the publisher for whom my bosses used to work -- and which used to be located in the very same building where we all are now -- a few months ago. A third of the company is in the UK, a third in Florida, and we make up the remaining third on our two floors in Manhattan. There's a lot of transition, and there's a lot of work to be done.

And, since one of my bosses' bosses stopped by last week, it seemed like that's when we were going to try and do it all.

So on Thanksgiving, I decided to relax. We took it easy this year, with the regular turkey and trimmings at my grandparents', but this year we had it take-out so that no one had to cook. (There are reasons why no one wanted to cook, or felt they were able to, but they're personal, not really relevant, and not really interesting.) It was nice. Good food, family, good apple cider. It was a nice respite after the long short week I'd had.

I'm a big fan of Thanksgiving. I'm not sure it's my favorite holiday, but it's up in the top five.

It's only this month-long run-off to Christmas that I could do without.

But anyway, that's what I did: not much. How about you?

by Fred 6:54 PM

What did you do for Thanksgiving?

by Sharon 9:51 AM


<blockquote class="topic">your topic</blockquote>