Category Archives: essay

No News is Still News, Day 2

Day 2 came and went, and still, news crept into my life. This time, the old fashioned way, by word of mouth.

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Utah, September, 2017, near or in Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument

Half of Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, they say, is to be sold off to the highest bidder. This most recent September, a guide led us through that strange, parched, changing landscape for 10 hours, from high perches above dry river beds, through a slot canyon, and past centuries-old petroglyphs. During that time, we went four hours without seeing another person. As we entered the slot canyon, we came across someone lost, and later, a party of four trekking the other way.

My good friend Alfonse sent me a sound remedy, to soften the silence. WXPN, a university radio station in Philadelphia, PA, US of A, is playing the songs of the seventies from A to Z. For your enjoyment, I place here the link.  After nine days, they’re up to the letter M.

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Viewing the Petroglyphs from a distance. To the right is the entrance to a slot canyon.

It’s a disappearing natural world and if you pay too much attention, you’ll draw some grim conclusions. I subscribe to a daily email from ScienceDaily which gets me the latest science news. Sometimes it’s sparks the day’s writing, and sometimes…

  • “Dahl’s toad-headed turtle threatened by fragmented habitat, shrinking forests.”
  • “Tigers cling to survival in Sumatra’s increasingly fragmented forests.”
  • “Fish exposed to treated wastewater have altered behavior.”
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Petroglyph up close.

Finished Broadchurch! Thirteen stars. Highly recommended.

 

Pre-Apocalypse, Day 1

Technically, the numbering should be backwards, but that’s incalculable. After a TV-free day, fell asleep and slept the night through. I would have slept later, but, per usual, the dog woke me as soon as the first light of day crept through the curtains.

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Row homes on Greenmount Ave., Baltimore, Maryland, USA. 2017.

As you know or don’t know, I haven’t been sleeping well for months, wondering if we are experiencing something like what Europeans did in the 1930s, a rising anxiety as a dark veil descends upon our civilization.

Since the start of the year, I’d scaled back my media intake, mostly news, and that worked for awhile. But it wasn’t enough. So yesterday, after determining that sleeping was more important than being well-informed, I began not watching TV (except an episode from series 3 of Broadchurch which is unavoidable). I gave up my morning NPR fix while scrambling the eggs. I ran from the room when my soulmate turned on cable news. I even skipped my daily dose of sportscenter.

No TV. No NPR. No evening news. No Facebook or Twitter feed. I turned off all the notifications my phone gets except actual phone calls. Now before me lies the daunting task of getting accustomed to the sound of thoughts that are my own.

One other thing, all media intake at this point must be by intent, not by beep, ding, flash, or habit, and must serve the purpose of reminding me that people can work together, expand knowledge, and solve problems. So last night, before episode six of series 3, Broadchurch – have I mentioned that it’s excellent – watched the documentary, The Farthest: Voyager in Space. It did the job. For now.

 

The first shots fired in a long war

Today, we’re on a break from the detective story. That doesn’t mean that the writing team has no idea where the story is going. Just that something urgent popped into the inbox this morning. See below for details:

A few years ago I purchased a DropCam mostly so the family could observe our then new dog when she was home alone, and scare the bejeezus out of her through the remote mic whenever she got into something she shouldn’t.

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Anyway, Nest acquired DropCam awhile ago… and while that isn’t too much of a big deal, every now and then they try some shenanigans like this here email which arrived today:

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I was almost lulled into inaction by the cheerful, apologetic, chatty tone of the email. “What a nice note,” I thought. “They’ve given me the option of ignoring it. How thoughtful. I love ignoring things…”

Then the caffeine kicked in and the sense that I was being wronged by a faceless entity started rising up from deep within. Error or no error, I want my free Video History. I paid for it and it’s mine. Right is right.

Essentially, they were telling me that they “accidentally” provided a free service and now that service was no longer free. Well… I sent the following email response:

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That should clear things up! Questions for you, the above average* reader: Is this an overreaction? An underreaction? A just right reaction? I don’t know, but justice must be served.

Continue reading The first shots fired in a long war

The source of your writing power

 

It’s all about appearances; the writing life has its demands. These include, explaining at parties what you’re working on when you yourself are clueless. You explain how you’re cranking out a few thousands words each and every morning and that you’re sure that once each word has been organized, catalogued, edited, and rewritten, the story disguised within will rise. Like a fucking phoenix.

Look, one minute it’s a dystopian mystery, the next it’s sci-fi existential flibnar set in pre-Victorian Ecuador.

Maybe you have a blog. Or 9 blogs. Few read them, but you have them anyway and you tweet your posts but let’s face it, you don’t want anyone you know in the real world to know what you’re doing online so you only sometimes tweet and maybe that’s under a pseudonym; ahem, that’s nom du plume to you. You need to be institutionalized.

You have to look like someone who is up to the business of wordification. How you dress defines how you write. That’s just common sense and is as important to the process as which pen nib you use, which typewriter you pound upon, whether you write on legal or A4, on a PC or a tablet, and whether you write in coffee shops or perched upon an I-beam at a construction site, which really gets the blood flowing.

At some point, you’re going to realize you haven’t done whatever grooming you still bother to do, so you shave. And you need a haircut, so you go to get a haircut. Then you’re in the chair with that thing they drape on you to keep the hair crumbs out of your clothes when you realize, crap, maybe your hair is the source of your writing powers and you should never let your hair be cut again. Lest you never write again, and the people, starved of your words, whither and perish…intellectually, that is. Otherwise they’re fine.

The point is, writing power springs from uncut hair, and that’s your tip of the day. Don’t believe me? Don’t cut your hair for two years and see your productivity soar. If I’m wrong, go ahead, get a haircut. Take the money you saved on haircuts and treat yourself to a night out or a Maserati. You deserve it.