Writing

My own serious stuff; the craft itself; those who inspire me in it; the art of reading.

5 Thoughts: And On Your Left, the Pons Creamery

2010.07.25
By

THE METAPHORAGER.NET VISITOR LOGS MAKE for interesting reading; it’s fun to see what rough edges of my prose snags on Google and other search engines; it’s nice to count the international flags and know that any Belgian with an iPhone can snatch up with digital fingers (pun) the latest dispatch from whatever lives in my brain. But it also becomes apparent that some items are missing out; thus, a guide to the un- or lesser-’phoraged pages of This Here Site.

1. Posse Commentatus: It’s long been an observation of mine that the same patterns are exhibited by the institutions and cultures of both the fandom and religious communities (i.e., those religions built around a central text). Posse Commentatus posits that the major difference between Jedi and Jew is about 3,000 years of backstory — and that the text isn’t as important as its message and its inspirations.

2. Clips: A small representation of my journalistic cred. (I mean, I wouldn’t read them either, but I have to put them somewhere; one of this site’s missions is aggressive self-aggrandizement.)

3. A Proposal For The Moon of Earth and/or Lunar Update: Back to the Redrawing Board: Perhaps the idea of looping Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece via lunar projector is a bit crazy after all. If you disagree, pick up a shovel and help.

4. Daily Gasp: This is in the sidebar right under “Wine Country Weather.” It links to NASA’s “Astronomical Picture of the Day” site which, if you haven’t see it yet, you must drop everything to click on. (“NOW, kid.” — Arlo Guthrie) I can think of fewer things more instantly awe-inducing than the view Outside, both for beauty and perspective.

5. Category: Writing See #2 above, except I actually would read these — and I invite anyone who wants to help make me a better writer to click away and start commenting. (On the other hand, if you’re looking for something nice to read over lunch, I’ll see you then!)

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Flash Fiction: Death Finishes His Drink

2010.07.23
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THE MAN WITH YESTERDAY’S EYES put down his glass.

“Well, it’s 3 a.m.,” he sighed. “I guess those poor bastards aren’t going to terrify themselves.”

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Under Oasine: Chapter 3 Synopsis

2010.07.22
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WHEN LAST WE MET, OUR heroes (the reluctant Hapler, the wounded Ij, and the idealist Twiz) were either successful or not in their quest to prove Twiz’s Theory of Oasine Connectivity: they did discover a new oasis beyond their native Fint, but have been deterred in their return by some unexpected visitors of unknown intent…

After some tense fumbling, conversation is established. The visitors call themselves Aquans (at least, for now) and call the new-to-our-heroes oasis something translating as “Good Fruit and Game, But Watch Out For Leaping Teeth.” They are led by a young woman (for now named “Possible Love Interest, But Watch It Buster”) and are uncertain what to do with the Finter trespassers, especially since their waterpod is broken and Ij injured by the aforementioned Leaping Teeth.

The Aquans then conduct the party (and pod) to their undersurface city, there to consult the Old Aquan. After a couple of pages of travelogue, they arrive and meet the appropriately named Old Aquan — polite, curious and gruff as he cautions the newcomers that they have entered a bigger world than they expected. He does not elaborate, but urges them to leave at once; when told of their difficulties, he orders PLIBWIB to see to the healing of man and pod.

A week later, Ij is fit as a Finter fiddle, developing a crush on his nurse (much to Hapler’s amusement), and ready for the PLIBWIB-lead journey back to Fint. The four set off in the repaired-and-spiffed-up pod: but after a page or so of narrative feint, they run smack into the bigger world of which the Old Aquan warned them…

And that’s all you get ’til I write the next chapter! (See http://metaphorager.net/under-oasine-synopsis1/, second paragraph; for an Oasine Overview, click to http://metaphorager.net/tag/under-oasine/).

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Spacetime Coordination

2010.07.17
By

“So the first thing is where. My first thought is the Heart of Green.”

“Off to the Right?”

“No, before that and down hill. At the base of the Stairstream.”

“Oh. Under that cliffy flat place that leads to Blasted Heath, over the cliffs.”

“Yes, where Keith started cursing out the valley in neo-Sumerian.”

“—hole.”

“Quite. Anyway, what about there?”

“Okay. Sure. Then we could go by Elven Rocks…”

“The rocks on the right, or the ones on top of the hill with the view down the back and, what is that, north?”

“Yeah … I think they filmed part of Harold and Maude out there. Looks like it. The bridge scene.”

“That was San Mateo.”

“Right, but if it wasn’t, then there. But on the from where the view is.”

“Roger Dean Rocks.”

“Roger Dean Rocks. Right. The acorn mortars.”

“Right. And through that sort of on top of the hill lane. You know? By the rock by the tree.”

“Oh! Yeah! The birthday rock!”

“Didn’t you play the flute up there once?”

“I’ll bring it.”

“Who else can we invite?”

“Who else knows the way?”

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5 Thoughts: Why (and How) We Write

2010.07.15
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HANGING BY OUR COMPUTER IS a sheet of paper I look to for inspiration. Sometimes it inspires me, sometimes it depresses me, but always it gets me back on the horse. It’s called “Why (and How) We Write.” If you too find it useful, please hang it by your computer.

1. Do it for the buzz.
– Stephen King

2. Finish what you start. Keep submitting until it sells.
— Robert Heinlein

3. a) Fanaticize yourself
b) Fanaticize something greater than yourself
c) “Sheer delight in what you are doing.”
– Robert Anton Wilson

4. a) Arrange events in linear order
b) Now arrange them in narrative order.
c) Write the story.
d) Revise the story.
e) FINALISE.
– H. P. Lovecraft

5. “Most of the characteristics which make for success in writing are precisely those which we are all taught to repress … the firm belief that you are an important person, that you are a lot smarter than most people, and that your ideas are so damned important that everybody should listen to you.”
– Robert Anton Wilson, reprise

Three Reasons Why I Like My New Yorker Rejection Slip

1. THEY RECOGNIZE THE SUPERIOR QUALITY of my work by admitting that they “regret that (they) are unable to carry it in the magazine.” You can’t regret doing something that’s not regretworthy, right? Right?

2. They spelled my name right. BOTH names. I could plotz from that alone.

3. It gives me a chance to plug the original (as well as its backstory: Drifting into a reverie one afternoon, a series of images — colored panels in the style of Nicole Claveloux or George Herriman — began flipping before my eyes. I could barely write them down fast enough. That usually doesn’t happen to me; I usually compose either at the keyboard or while pacing the room. The version I sent to TNY omitted the dialog, which is inconsequential anyway; I didn’t know what else to do with it, so I sent it off. As William S Burroughs so famously quoth in Naked Lunch, “Wouldn’t you?”).

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< |||| > 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

(See Also: Robert Anton Wilson / HP Lovecraft / Writing / 5 Thoughts / Text As Life)

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Three Reasons Why I Like My New Yorker Rejection Slip

2010.07.13
By

1. THEY RECOGNIZE THE SUPERIOR QUALITY of my work by admitting that they “regret that (they) are unable to carry it in the magazine.” You can’t regret doing something that’s not regretworthy, right? Right?

2. They spelled my name right. BOTH names. I could plotz from that alone.

3. It gives me a chance to plug the original (as well as its backstory: Drifting into a reverie one afternoon, a series of images — colored panels in the style of Nicole Claveloux or George Herriman — began flipping before my eyes. I could barely write them down fast enough. That usually doesn’t happen to me; I usually compose either at the keyboard or while pacing the room. The version I sent to TNY omitted the dialog, which is inconsequential anyway; I didn’t know what else to do with it, so I sent it off. As William S Burroughs so famously quoth in Naked Lunch, “Wouldn’t you?”).

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5 Thoughts: From Mix to Memory

2010.07.11
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1. A TREASURED ITEM IN HOUSEHOLDS of more than 40 years duration is the Mix Tape: an audio cassette of 40 – 60 minutes per side containing music from an LP or radio station which the user wishes to either preserve or make portable via boombox or Walkman. Some content may also come from such late-night performance venues as “Midnight Special” and “Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert.” This technology was part of a primitive file-sharing service called the “music industry,” which is something like Pirate Bay only more centralized.

2. Perhaps the most evocative of my own seven or 12 mix tapes was made in late 1978 through early 1979, AKA my junior year of high school. It’s mostly punk and new-wave air-taped from San Francisco radio station KSAN (a”h), which means what’s now played as oldies on “modern rock” stations true to their roots (e.g. KFOG, Live 105 and Alice@97.3): Talking Heads, Boomtown Rats, Richard Hell and the Voidoids, Ian Dury, The Normal, Cheap Trick, David Bowie, Horslips, Joe Jackson and various artists whose names provoke blankness in the ignorant and bittersweet pangs in the worthy.

3. Listening to the same tape for 30-plus years builds up a close patina of memories and associations — not only of its making and subsequent hearing, but of individual songs as well. “Warm Leatherette” I first heard with two friends driving to San Francisco; “Alan’s Psychedelic Breakfast” was recommended to me by a mad crush; “Changes” and “Ziggy Stardust” were two of my all-time favorite Bowie songs even before this tape. On the other hand, I can’t hear either today on radio, CD or MP3 without “overhearing” the version on “the KSAN tape.” (And “Harmonia” just doesn’t sound right without that two-second burst of static).

4. Extended listening also implies/shows/initiates a change of tastes, or at least of understandings. The suburban punk who cheered the frantic teenpocaplyse of “Rat Trap” has traded in, so to speak, for “Sultans of Swing” (which once seemed to me just a mellow bass line and amazing Knopflerian guitar run rather than a paean to everyone like “Harry (who) doesn’t mind if he doesn’t make the scene / He has a day-time job, he’s doin’ all right / He can play the honkytonk like anything / But he’s savin’ it up for Friday night”); “Walking In The Rain” is no longer anthemic, but “Surrender” is; the once-defiant dabbling of “Walk On The Wild Side” has given way to a bemused nostalgia.

5. It’s tempting, very tempting, to say that “they don’t write ‘em like this anymore” — that today’s “modern rock” either takes itself too seriously, or ironically, or breathily[1] to be much fun — and to lament that the music of one’s own youth is co-opted to sell blue jeans, lifestyles and safely manufactured rebellion. Such is life among the short-spanned; things will always be both better and worse than they were in one’s youth. But remember this, o my fellow middle-aged punks: When the world gets as grim as it seems to be right now, the most brazen act of defiance is happiness.

_ _ _ _ _
[1] Really. Some of these people need to quit smoking or gargling with cotton balls or whatever it is they’re doing and leave the tentative whispering to spies and other lovers.

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5 Thoughts: Fiction- v. News-Writing

2010.07.05
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1. YOU STOP WRITING A NEWS piece when you run out of facts. But when do you stop writing fiction? When you run out of story, I suppose.

2. In news, the most important information goes up top. In fiction, it’s in the reader’s head — at least with genre pieces. There has to be some connection between the reader’s mind and the writer’s expression in terms of shared assumptions or expectations. A science fiction author knows his readers are unfazed by three-headed alien bankers, so doesn’t need to waste valuable real estate on justifying same beyond adhering to strict internal consistency. Someone writing for a general audience needs to adjust their bankers, but touch not the consistency!

3. Both news and fiction require a suspension of disbelief on the part of the writer. The newswriter must disbelieve her own narrowness of perspective; the fictioneer, the narrowness of his publisher’s pocketbook. And both must believe that they offer an important, if not indispensable, message.

4. The task/mechanics of newswriting can be visualized as assembling a Tinkertoy set: all the pieces are there, and it’s the writer’s task to assemble them in as compact and easily recognizable a form as possible. Fictioneering feels more like holding one end of a handful of ropes which fade into the misty distance; the idea being to draw in the slack and tighten the lines until the sails fill of themselves.

5. Dialog. In fiction, it advances the plot or builds character or atmosphere. In news … well, it can also advance plots and build (or tear down) character and atmosphere. Perhaps news and fiction are less dissimilar than they appear (no FOX or MSM jokes, please); the difference may be whether we corroborate with our senses or our emotions.

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Posts That Never Were

2010.07.01
By

THE IMMEDIACY OF BLOGGING CREATES, for the blogger, a whole new way of looking at the world. It’s not much different from the world of any writer in terms of the compulsion to record, comment on and embroider every living moment; blogging just makes it easier and less private.

Privacy in today’s age of Instant Personal Broadcasting[1] (blogs, vlogs, YouTube, reality TV, chat, texting, Facebook and definitely MySpace) means something different than it did when the cautionary “1984″ loomed in our future, before we collectively became Big Brother for both fun and profit. The aware writer — i.e., aware that his writing is for other people to read — will thus exercise privacy as a form of active self-discretion; despite that he can now tell his readers any thing at any time, he doesn’t want to overdo it and collects a quick pile of unshared observation. Here are a few of mine, at least for now:

Taste Test: Breakfast Cereals — One of my favorite snacks is a bowl of cereal, but as I get older I find myself less enamoured of sweet snacks. Why can’t They make something better, like a less sweet Corn Pop with pecans?

My God Has Balls — Although a staunch brother of my sisters in the struggle, I can’t help but notice that the degenderization of “God,” necessitated for those who confuse Hebrew’s gendered pronouns with sexism, has clunked up the liturgy and made it harder for many to feel less self-conscious about praying — and diluted the Warrior Spirit inherent and necessary to any disciplined spiritual approach.

Elena Kagan Is Hot — If a man can’t see the inherent beauty in every woman, he’s not really a man. (Of course, he might also be gay, but then the point would be that if he can’t see the inherent beauty in every man he’s not really looking. Or so I imagine; I don’t think men have any inherent beauty.) This would also spell the difference between women and girls, and how the latter limit and make the former look as bad as boys do for men.

Tawdry Tidbits From The World Of Small Town Politics — Shame on you. (Besides, the town’s small enough that everyone knows them already.)

I Just Submitted A Story To _______ — Puh-LEASE. Believe me, I’ll post enough when they’re published; if my rejection : acceptance ratio is like anyone else’s, posting each of my many, many subs will make me look (and, inevitably, feel) like a loser. (Besides, the New Yorker frowns on such things.)

Cute Things The Cat Did — There are some things which I simply cannot do. One is ask someone a question without an intimidating bulldog machinegun style. Another is to be less intense. A third is to write anything profound about our little woojums. (Ann can, though — she’s even got a whole category for it.)

Vicious Deconstruction of Modern Writers In An Obvious Bid For Attention — I sort of did that to Douglas Rushkoff’s uninformed and whiny Nothing Sacred, but then felt so bad the next day that I had to apologize. Not only is such behavior rude and transparent, it may prevent me from cadging a beer from the inhabitants of the lofty realm I pretend to despise.

Great Quotes from Star Trek, Star Wars or Whatever I’m Reading Now — Those who know, know; those who don’t, don’t care.

EFT and the Death of Retail Banter — How can we talk weather with the checker if we have to keep pushing all these damn buttons? And would I feel the same if I still worked at the bookstore?

That should do for now. If you can think of anything else I shouldn’t write about, I’ll be right here … waiting.

[1] Phrase copyright 2010, Neal Ross Attinson. Ka-CHING.

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Prosatio Silban and the Disconsolate Wineherd

2010.06.25
By

EVEN OVER THE CLANK OF his galleywagon, Prosatio Silban could hear the sobs.

The weeper, a well-to-do farmer by his dress, was standing beside a well-appointed and -laden wagon at the crossroads leading out of Vineol, a town renowned throughout the Uulian Commonwell for the delicacy and refinement of its wines. The day was hot for the region and season, and had been so for many days – hot, cloudless but with an occasional breeze at the right moment. Prosatio Silban wondered why the man was giving such unguarded vent, and reined his galleywagon to a halt.

“It’s too warm a day for such distress,” Prosatio Silban offered, dismounting.

The farmer produced a large handkerchief, blew noisily. “Not if the sun has blasted your crop, and with it your hopes for wintertime eating,” he said, and bowed. “Pars Killiup.”

“Prosatio Silban, The Cook for Any Price. May I be of service to you?”

Pars Killiup turned to his carriage. “Only if you can turn dross into gold, or rot into bounty. Look.” He drew back the wagon’s canvas cover, revealing several barrels, then pried the lid off of one. Inside was a tight-packed mass of what looked like black wrinkled berries, glinting here and there with rainbow sparks. A musky, tangy aroma rose from the barrel; unfamiliar, yet not unpleasant.

“Some of the finest winefruit this side of the Rimless Sea, or was before the heat ruined it,” he said. “I harvested the raisings anyway, just to give the lads something to do, and was taking it to the river. But the thought was more than I could bear, and so you found me.”

Prosatio Silban thought of the Uulian proverb, Disaster: Opportunity for the attentive. Aloud, he said, “Everything has its proper place. We will take these to market.”

“What? Why? So my neighbors can share my disgrace?”

“Not in Vineol. In Pastisi.”

“Pastisi? But Pastisi is nothing but brewers and bakers! They don’t even buy wine, let alone winefruit. Besides, it’s at least a dayride from here.”

“Nevertheless,” said Prosatio Silban. “You will sell these for more than they would bring if fresh.”

“Eh? Are you some sort of wizard?”

“No. Simply a cook who knows his customers.”

“Well, then. I have already lost my livelihood; I suppose you can’t make things worse.”

And so, following a journey divided by supper (grilled something and beets with a half-bottle of white duliac), a peaceful sleep, and breakfast (eggs with gravy, biscuits, sliced citrion and a bracing pot of yava), masters Silban and Killiup wedged themselves into the bustling marketplace of Pastisi.

“Now then.” Prosatio Silban opened the barrel they’d unloaded. “Within an hour, you’ll be the richest man in Vineol.”

“How so?”

Prosatio Silban was cut off by a gruff “What are these?” from a brawny chap in a brown baker’s tunic.

“‘These?’” Prosatio Silban replied, raising his voice a trifle. “’‘These’ have never before been seen on this side of the Rimless Sea. Taste one.”

The baker sniffed, raised an eyebrow. “Hm. Sweet.” He chewed, eyes closed, nodding. “Not cloying. Fruity. What are they?”

“That is the secret,” Prosatio Silban said. “My friend, Pars Killiup, has developed a method whereby the essence of a fruit may be concentrated within its skin by removing its waters.”

“Eh? Magik?” asked an old woman who had stopped to listen.

“No, madam,” Prosatio Silban replied. “Not magik, but a simple process sanctioned by the Flickering Gods—and, of course, Pars Killiup.”

The woman wrinkled her brow. “Looks like ruined winefruit to me,” she said.

Prosatio Silban closed his eyes as if in pain. “Ruined fruit is garbage. One does not sell garbage in the marketplace of Pastisi.”

“True,” said a boy leading a goat. “What are you selling?”

The old woman chewed, raised her eyebrows. “Something tasty, whatever else it be,” she said.

“How much d’you want for them?” asked the baker.

“What are you selling?” asked a man in the livery of a Pastisi noble.

“Something good for custard,” said the boy with the goat.

“Or bread,” said the baker.

“Or biscuits,” said the woman.

“How much for that barrel?” asked the liveried noble.

That evening, Prosatio Silban and PK dined on a truffled squab apiece atop a rich pilaf of rice, jo-beans and cashews – sweetened with the last handful of Pars Killiup’s accidental discovery. “This is delicious,” he said, raising his empty glass. “But how did you know?”

“Everything has its proper place,” Prosatio Silban replied, pouring the last of the duliac. “You just have to know where it is.”

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5thoughts: James Joyce

2010.06.16
By

James Joyce

Fig. 1: James Joyce

IN HONOR OF BLOOMSDAY 2010, five thoughts on the man who made it possible:

1. James Joyce is yet another proof that one man’s mind can be bigger than his skull. (If not, generational banks of Joyce scholars would have quit writing about him long ago.)

2.) Until Finnegan’s Wake, no Irishman had ever beat the Jews for mind-stretching eloquence. (Since the Talmud, the best we’ve done is Groucho Marx and Yehuda Amichai.)

3.) Come to think of it, FW and the Talmud do make two nice bookends for the Western literary tradition: what the Talmud does to Aristotle, Joyce does to Webster. (Said comeuppances piercingly beautiful to see.)

4.) If a man can spend a quarter of his life writing his Perfect Book, there’s hope for the rest of us.

5.) But only if we can manage not to be humbled by such wit-wraps as “Nations have their ego, just like individuals,” “History is a nightmare from which I am trying to wake,” or “Men are governed by lines of intellect – women: by curves of emotion.” Or: “Agenbite of inwit.” Or even:

O

tell me all about

Anna Livia! I want to hear all

about Anna Livia. Well, you know Anna Livia? Yes, of course, we all know Anna Livia. Tell me all. Tell me now.

(O, now, what’s the use? Another Guinness pour my muse, poor favor, purring kittenkilkenny of katzenjammers … [tape ends])

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Jon Stewart Slams Glenn Beck Idol

2010.05.21
By

THE DEMISE OF THE HEADLINE-WRITER’S art (according to a recent article fed through both Slashdot and The Daily Beast) dictates an appeal to search engine optimization (SEO) instead of readers — something that snags on Google instead of anticipatory imagination. Thus, the perfect SEO headline for anything would be the above, as it’s (quoting from memory since I can’t find the original article, alas) “guaranteed to bring in thousands of page hits.” (I added “Idol” just to tweak the numbers, in my own special pundit Beltway Comedy Central Lady Gaga Obama porn Mafia Wars Stephen Colbert Go USA way.)

So there we go. I’ll post an update in 24 hours (hmm… better make it 36) and see how many Fabulous Prizes and Destination Sunsets we’ve won. (So to speak. Heh heh heh.)

UPDATE: JSSGBI+10 minutes: THIS is CREEPY. As in OMG!!! creepy. I no sooner post this when, touched by curiosity, I Google “Jon Stewart Slams Glenn Beck.” And:

The mind-blowing evidence of Google's unholy grasp on the world's electronic tentacles.

Fig. 1.

NUMBER FIVE??? IN N*I*N*E M*I*N*U*T*E*S?!?!?!?!? That’s actually pretty cool…

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