Monthly Archives: July 2012

Listen Closely…It Really is Going to be Alright

English: Cape Hatteras Lighthouse Français : L...

English: Cape Hatteras Lighthouse Français : Le phare de Cape Hatteras (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Have you ever had someone tell you when you’re in a tense situation to go to your happy place? Is this something that you’re able to accomplish? For me, there is no such thing as a “happy place” in my head. When I close my eyes, all I see are the inside of my eyelids.

My happy place entails luggage, vehicle, and enough gas to make it there. One I remember fondly is Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. I and my wife would travel there every October for our anniversary. She would read and I would fish.

The next trip would be in the winter with my son to fish for Striped Bass. The trip after that was usually in spring with my son to fish for Drum, Blues, and anything else that would bite our hooks. The fishing, the wonderful meals we would prepare, and the just being together would make for a long, wonderful weekend. We would leave Friday morning and not return until Monday, sometimes with coolers of fish and sometimes with coolers of melted ice.

It’s hard to describe the feeling of beaching a 30 lb. fish in the surf, or for that matter an 8 ounce Spot. Whether or not we caught fish was really immaterial. It was the time spent together that was most enjoyable.

I haven’t been able to fish in this manner for several years due to life’s unforeseen hiccups barring my path with unforeseen obstacles, as it does with us all. But God has brought me even closer to my family than I could have ever realized.

I am now in the middle of writing my autobiography. As I write, I take the time to remember the many situations that make my life my own. Even if you’re writing a work of fiction, be thorough. Make the work your own. I guess what I mean to say is to claim ownership over your writing. Don’t be afraid to put a piece of yourself in your characters. You will find that this will make your story more interesting because you are writing about something you know…that something being you.

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There Oughta’ Be a Law…Maybe That’s the Problem?

Buzzard

Buzzard (Photo credit: Richard Towell)

Does this sound familiar? “Have you used the nasal ointment, Snot-Away, and experienced any of the following symptoms: waxy ears, in-grown toe nails, hair on the top of your head, or an insatiable desire to eat when hungry? If so, call 1-800-IDIOTS-R-US because you may be entitled to compensation for your suffering.”

I am considering a class-action suit seeking punitive damages for the mind-numbingly repetitive invitations to sue for any outlandish claim that I am inundated with day after day on television. Change the channel, you say? There’s not a channel or a time of day in which these ambulance-chasers do not vie for my business.

I would bet I could slip on a bar of soap in my shower, injure myself, and find a lawyer who would take the case of Me vs. Me. With all the bad drugs out there, I’m surprised we’re not all dead. Instead, for some strange reason (Could it be the meat-wagon buzzards?…I think not.) we are living longer and having to endure less invasive procedures. (Could it be the evil drug companies and their miracle chemicals?) Well that’s where I’d put my money, that is IF I was a bettin’ man. Even an aspirin can kill someone with an allergy to the analgesic. To quote a great man, “That’s all I’ve got to say about that.” (You can add the accent.)

If you’re a follower of my blog, you know it’s at this point that I usually reveal the previous paragraphs as a metaphor for the craft of writing. This is made easier due to the ludicrous message I have brought to your attention. With that in mind, here goes…

When writing fiction, you can be as outlandish as you wish as long as you don’t step too far across the line of believability. In contrast, lawsuits can travel outside the realm of human belief and still be considered factual, no matter how ridiculous the content.

So as I wrap this one up, remember to write with fervor, embrace your story, and  let the ridiculous diversions in this world roll off you like water off a duck’s back, for when it’s all said and done, they’re worth nothing more than a good laugh because, in all truth, that’s exactly what they are.  I guess being put together as I am, I tend not to suffer fools gladly.

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Boob Put the “b” in Tube

English: TV receiver

English: TV receiver (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If I were to ask you what you were doing right now, what would you say?  I can only imagine that many of you would say, “None of your business.”  By the same token quite a few of you would reply, “I’m watching TV.”

I can remember when I was a young child, our first black and white Zenith TV.  We even had a repair man who would make house calls to repair this valuable appliance.  At that time nine out of ten households had a TV compared to today’s multiple monitor homes, some even in the bathroom.

If we look back to the lowly beginning of the TV set, we see the basic component, the cathode tube, was created in 1897.  The first television sold for home use was the GE Octagon in 1928.  The 3” screen is a far cry from the giant HD screens of today.

Even though the days of the dog-ears are over (for all you youngsters, dog ears were adjustable antenna that sat on top of the TV), televisions, no matter the era, still need a means to receive a signal.

Just for argument’s sake, if you were to open a mid-90s, 27-inch (TV screens are always measured on the diagonal), you would find a huge picture tube, circuit boards, and just a lot of stuff, all living in a plastic housing that weighed the better part of a ton.

In contrast, one of today’s 37-inch, HD, flat-screen monitors can be easily lifted with one hand. I haven’t opened one up, but whatever is inside can’t be much.

If you span the decades from the octagon to today’s high-tech renditions, the technology has progressed by leaps and bounds. The one thing that has remained the same is that a picture originating in a television studio must be jostled, exploded, and sent in minute, invisible pieces through the airwaves to the receiver in your home, no matter which brand you choose to view.

By the same token, when the first written word appeared, it was recorded by hand. Now, those words can be produced at lightning speed. Are you taking advantage of the technology that is available to you to make your writing as efficient and accurate as possible? If not, give it some thought. Changes can be hard to make, but the advantage of change can be priceless.

Now excuse me while I wrap a piece of aluminum foil around my rabbit ears and do a little readjusting. These three-inch screens are murder on the eyes.

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Shave and a Hair Cut Anyone?

Shaving

Shaving (Photo credit: Improbable Roach)

As I pen these words I can only assume that you are reading them.  If you’re not reading them then pay no attention.  But if you are (reading them I mean) then follow along.  Being that it is the weekend we’ll take a lazy journey and consider some of the things we normally take for granted.

Let me see…how about shaving?  Today we can easily pull out an electrical device, push a button and run it over which area we choose to remove unwanted hair.  But what would we have done several thousand years ago?  Well, I happen to know from a reliable source, flint, clam shells and shark’s teeth were used (whether or not they required electricity, I do not know).

Some would prefer to pluck their hairs from their face with tweezers or scrub the hair off with pumice.  Neither of these methods sounds as though they would cultivate a feeling of comfort.  When I think about the female of the species and armpit hair removal (not to mention bikini season) I tend to shutter and dismiss any perceived discomfort on my part.

Shaving eventually evolved into the use of sharpened metal objects and I would guess this was around the same time that toilet paper was invented.  Little do people know that the first use of toilet paper was to stem the flow of bleeding from the open wounds inflicted by the razor-sharp instruments of woe.  In case you haven’t noticed, this paragraph was the very first time the use of the word “razor” came into being.  How I did it I do not know, only that I did.  For proof positive look back to the third sentence, second word from the end and you’ll see it, just as plain as day.

Enough of these razors, let’s change gears and move to another product–one known as charcoal.  Can you see where the two relate?  If not, more on that later.  Thousands of years ago, man had two choices– (Actually, he had more than two choices so we will just say that he had choices) two of which were to eat meat raw or cooked.  The problem being, having never eaten cooked meat how would he know that it could be cooked?  I haven’t a clue, so instead we shall skip ahead to the creation of the charcoal briquette.

The briquette was developed in the late 19th century but didn’t take off commercially until Henry Ford using wood from the manufacturing of cars sold this part of the business to his brother-in-law, E G Kingsford.  And the rest is history, or at least compressed burnt wood.

Now to make sense of all this nonsense, charcoal has one very useful characteristic–it is able to filter impurities out of other substances.  When it comes to writing, this also is a useful technique.  Your writing should be filtered, pure, and free from fluff.  You can also take a lesson from the dangerous utensil we dubbed as the razor and shave the unnecessary stubble from your manuscript.  (I said earlier that I would explain the relationship of charcoal and razors.  Razors are perfect for slicing open bags of charcoal. )

I’ve given you the key to the mint.  Now get out there, slice open a bag of charred wood, throw a slab of meat on the grill, and grab a clam shell…you’re starting to look a mess.

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Might as Well Eat Dirt

Various frozen vegetables displayed on a Wal-M...

Various frozen vegetables displayed on a Wal-Mart Supercenter shelf (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Have you ever noticed that in many cases man can take what is wholesome, healthy, and in a pristine ready-made form and turn it into garbage? What I’m talking about is the way we process food in this country. We have taken wholesome foods, and for the sake of convenience and longevity begun to slowly poison ourselves.

I am not referring to the fast-food industry which, as we all know, pumps fat, sodium, and sugar into us at an alarming rate–just take the time to look around at the shape most of us are in.

But not all of these processes are bad–take canned and frozen vegetables for instance. During the off season for produce, canned and frozen vegetables may be a better choice, as they are picked when ripe, and in some cases go from field to can within hours, whereas the so called “fresh produce” may have been picked before fully ripe, making them nutritionally deficient.

The next time you go shopping, take a look at the nutrition labels on the products you are about to buy. I normally stop reading at about the thirtieth ingredient (or should I say chemical) and put the product back on the shelf. For instance, let’s examine ice cream.  A normal container of regular ice cream will contain cream, milk, sugar and whatever flavoring it happens to be. In contrast, a container of low fat ice cream will have an entire paragraph of ingredients, most of which I cannot pronounce and few having any benefit that I am aware of.

Using the proceeding as an example, when writing, keep your story clean and free of debris. Read and reread as many times as you think necessary. It is possible to over-think as you edit and rewrite but your gut will tell you when it’s genuinely as it should be…as long as you listen. Sometimes it takes getting away from the manuscript for awhile then coming back at a later date when you can be more focused.

Oops!  Gonna have to go…got another mess to clean up. Someone got chocolate in my peanut butter.

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Ashes or Dust, I Don’t Care…It Costs too Much

English: Entrance to Boot Hill Cemetary in Tom...

English: Entrance to Boot Hill Cemetary in Tombstone, Arizona (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Peeves, in the form of adoring pets (i.e., pet peeves), we all seem to have. Some tend to bother us more than others. As we age they tend to bother us even more. One of mine I would like to share and I am sure you would love to hear concerns the funeral system in this country.

Caretakers of the deceased provide a necessary service but I was always taught that I should get dinner or at least a kiss before being treated in that manner. According to television, the average funeral costs around eight thousand dollars. Now, my first question: Why do we need anything more than a pine box (or if that’s not your style, poplar is always a nice alternative)? Personally, I would opt for cardboard.  It’s easy on the pall-bearers and decays quickly plus your average tree hugger won’t proclaim tree abuse due to my final resting box being constructed of wood …Wait a minute…Cardboard does come from trees!  Oh well, can’t please everybody…

I want to reiterate that I am all for the respectful approach to the way we bid farewell to our loved ones, whether sitting up with the dead in our homes, a funeral home wake, or memorial service after someone has been cremated. However, what jerks a knot in my rear end is the price we are expected to pay for this service.

Before I take a second mortgage out on my home to pay for this, let’s examine our final farewell amenities including options that I’m sure are not complementary. (On a side note: a casket and a coffin are not the same thing. A casket is the rectangular-shaped receptacle we use today, while a coffin is tapered at the top and bottom–what you’d see in your average Western.) You can select your basic model casket for that thrifty bon voyage or your more ornate, exotic, carved wooden model that just screams, “I’m styling now, baby!”

We can also have the double-walled, galvanized box with a waterproof seal to prevent that soggy feeling. There are also drawers to store memorabilia, I can only suppose, so that the corpse does not get bored during those long, drawn out days of eternity.

If you’re predisposed to enjoying a hot, dry climate, then cremation may be the very thing for you. And of course, you will want to select an appropriate urn to inter the dusty gray pile of YOU. I would think something on the order of an oatmeal box or a coffee can would prove to be a suitable container for my benefit–I love the smell of coffee.

As I step down from my bully pulpit, I contemplate all that I have said in this post.  I pause, shrug my shoulders and think one last thought, if you’re a writer, then get to writing, ‘cause after you’re dead, your fingers don’t work as well.

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Twiddle Your Own Thumbs! Mine are Busy Writing this Post

fingerprints

fingerprints (Photo credit: bistra1)

Earlier in my blog, the topic was the value of the human foot. I would be remiss and have been severely chastised by my right hand (known from now on as Hank) for not bringing light to the helpful human hand.

This post will be dedicated to the latter but more specifically, fingerprints.

The ancient Babylonians and the Chinese both used fingerprints for business transactions. It was not until 1892 in Argentina that they were used to solve a crime. Coincidentally, had the same technology been available a continent away, there may have been a conviction in the Borden Murders when Lizzie allegedly hacked her parents to chum.

We are told that no two people have the same fingerprints. This makes it a valuable and accurate crime fighting tool. On a side note, in the world of forensics, they’re developing a new technology which is not yet in use whereby experts can extract molecules from the lungs of a homicide victim and do the same to any suspects as long as it’s within 24 hours of the crime and determine if both were in the same area.

On a side, side note (I like sides better than backs and fronts; No comment on tops and bottoms), totally off the subject, I have been told since I was a child that no snowflake is exactly the same. Now when I think of the trillions upon trillions to the power of trillions of snowflakes that have fallen…I don’t know.

Back to Hank. Fingerprints give each one of us one more layer of originality. The same can be said of authors. Originality sets their work apart from any others. As you write, resist the temptation to write anything just as filler. Tap into that originality and put your best Hank forward.

Now I need to ask a question, and you must be truthful. Did you believe the piece I wrote on the new technology using molecules found in the lungs? Now be honest, did you? Because I did. And I’m the one that made it up. It’s not so hard to believe that such a procedure could exist with the technological advancements in forensics these days. Just another example of ways to incorporate interesting topics in your writing.

In closing, I would suggest on your way home from work or your next trip out, buy an ink pad, roll your fingers through it, deposit your prints onto a piece of paper and see if you really are who you think you are.

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