…AND OTHER ROADBLOCKS IN WRITING!

Tag Archives: media

 

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Okay, maybe there are a few TV programs and channels left that have not been bought out or sold out to sensationalism-for-profit. But they are becoming endangered species.

I’ve heard “You are what you eat” for as long as I’ve been on this planet, and that has been a fairly lo-o-o-ng time. So listen up, you whipper-snappers! If you disagree, stop reading. You have hundreds of mind-mucking dishes to binge on. Bon appetit!

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Am I alone in decrying the dumbing down of content, and the ratcheting up of violence in programming? And what does watching that stuff say about us? We settle for less than the best? Uh—yeah. Look at the state our country is in. It’s been turned into one of those base fake-wrestling, fake-reality shows. And the rest of the world is NOT laughing.

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photo of group of men wearing assorted scarves holding sticksWith the power of our buying habits, we can demand more  programs that promote ideals, add to one’s knowledge, and can change life for the better.

We need to laugh with comedy based on the human condition, humor that helps us see ourselves through other eyes, humor that’s not an in-your-face reflection of the negative influences in society. Humor that may even, yes, inspire compassion. Not comedy learned in colleges, but on the streets of life, like some of the best performers from the past.

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We need to be able to laugh at ourselves and our mistakes and learn from it all. We deserve shows based on ideals by which this country was built strong and proud and set on a pedestal of respect. The rest is mind mush intended to keep the masses controlled with the aid of a multiplicity of sales pitches and food commercials that push us to mindless consumerism and mindless eating.

 

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I recently watched a 2018 TV drama series The Terror, based on the novel of the same name by author Dan Simmons. The series is a fictionalized account of Captain Sir John Franklin’s 1845-1848 expedition to find the Northwest Passage through the Arctic. The two ships, Erebus and Terror, became frozen in the ice and their crews lost in agonizing conditions of body and mind and through the actions of a supernatural creature that haunts the crew. A second season is planned for 2019. You can judge its merits for yourself.

But here’s what I learned from watching it. If we learn from the history of prior expeditions, if we are willing to heed lessons from the experiences of others on such voyages, if we put the good of all involved ahead of our personal ambitions, we may live to try again.

 And what has this got to do with writing?

 

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Writers must continue to learn so we can write with authority and confidence about that which fires us up.

What we write can educate, entertain, lighten spirits, and enlighten minds.

In the darkest tale, we can write in a way that elevates and ignites the best not the basest in people, as divisive forces splintering this country have so skillfully done.

Stand up for what’s right.

Go.

Write.

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In my younger materialistic, non-philosophical days, I was bored as hell watching a TV production of Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot. I didn’t get it. If you’ve never seen or read the play, stick around. The rest of you can go take a nap. Until I get to the point. Which, if you know me by now, will be somewhere down at the bottom. HEY! NO PEEKING.

Samuel Barclay Beckett. (With a name like that, he was destined to become a great writer, right?) He was born on or about April 13, 1906, in Ireland, and died December 22, 1989 in Paris. (France. Not the one in Texas, Tennessee, or Kiribati. Or anywhere else.) So, other than my telling you he was an author, playwright, critic, and winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1969, you can read all about him on the web.

When I was younger, I was preoccupied with my physical being being everything. I had not yet been exposed to college where the worlds of art, music, psychology, philosophy, science and mathematics expanded my horizons. In fact, until then, no teacher had ever explained why I had to carry the 1 back and forth across the top of addition and subtraction examples on the slate chalkboard. (Yes, I am that old, and no, it was not a one-room schoolhouse on the prairie.)

Older, and wiser, (I heard that!) I revisited Godot, and watched Vladimir (no, not THAT one) and Estragon talking and waiting for Godot. Some guy named Pozzo pops in with his slave, Lucky, whom he intends to sell in town. After they leave, a boy enters. He announces Godot will not be coming that night, but will see them the next night. V & E decide to leave, but remain seated. END Act 1. (Hang in there. This exciting epic is almost over.)

Act 2: V & E meet again to wait for Godot. Pozzo and Lucky return. (Luckily for Lucky, the sale didn’t happen.) Pozzo is now blind and Lucky is now mute. They leave, the boy returns. He says Godot is not coming and denies speaking to V & E yesterday. The boy leaves. Vladimir and Estragon decide to leave, but again remain seated until the curtain falls, ending the second and final act. For which you are very happy. I understand.

What you don’t see is the meat I have chewed off the bones of this bizarre plot seemingly sketched by a second-grader. In that missing meat, rumbling through my mind which digests such stuff, lies their interactions and the themes they represent—questions about the physical universe, the nature of man, the concept of space and time that plague scientists, philosophers, religions, and even…me. You, too? Good. I’m not alone. Read Waiting For Godot again, or for the first time, in which case you might want to take a No-Doze.

Okay. Now you can peek. Here’s my point. While taking small but steady bites out of my daily To-Do lists all month long, I’d been waiting for some theme for this post. Just going through repetitive daily motions waiting to no avail until I sat my butt at the computer and pecked out a working title: “Waiting For Inspiration.”

Then it hit me. Waiting for inspiration was exactly the same as Waiting for Godot. And presto, there he was. My inspiration at last! He’s a nice guy, really. Godot looks a bit like a slimmed down Jabba the Hutt with legs. He peered over my shoulder, nibbled little errors and gobbled typos out of this piece. So if you spy any glaring mistakes, it is what it is. I’m not waiting for Godot to fix them. He’s not coming this evening.

Now, whenever I lack inspiration, I will hit the keys with whatever comes into my mind, and make an inspired piece of writing of it. And for some reason, I suddenly feel hungry. Perhaps a few bites of Shakespeare and a cup of Earl Grey tea will do.

 

 


MEMORIES and MEMOIRS I’ve been scanning photos old and new into the mighty maw of my Apple computer in Pictures, Desktop, Photos, thumb-drive, and occasionally, Documents. It’s not that I don’t trust my computer…it’s just that I don’t trust technology in general. So far, these photos have brought back smiles as well as LOL and tears. I don’t want to lose them, though there are a few I might not scan.

I’ve decided not to scan the proverbial bearskin rug photo—not that I didn’t look pretty good at eighteen (months, that is), it’s just that I don’t want that photo turning up on a bottle of the Russian baby bath or shampoo. Unless royalties are involved. (Vladimir Vladimirovich – give me a call if you’ll consider royalties. Incentive: I’ll throw in a picture of me at eighteen.) Money makes the world go round…money…money…

Where was I? Oh, on a bearskin rug. With no money. So, scanning all these memories got me thinking how great they are as story starters for memoirs, fiction or creative fiction.

There’s the photo of me at six months. My mother said there was no way I could remember seeing the photographer bouncing a fake birdie on a stick to make me smile. Really? There’s a story!virginia-ruth-todd-age-6-months

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Then there’s my beautiful mom holding eight-month-old-me in a flowery field. Story starter!

 

 

 

 

Moving on a few years, we see two swans; Ruth, my mom, is on the left. On the right is my Aunt Marcelle who came from France at the end of World War II as my Uncle Ben Todd’s bride. Stuck in the middle is a very unhappy Ugly Duckling – ME! Oh, did you ever see a better growing-pains story starter? Pompoms on the knit cap? Really, Mom? Oh, and snowsuit? You two babes are in silk stockings and heels! What? And I won’t even mention remembering how my glasses steamed up from the cold. Oops. I never said that. Sorry, didn’t mean to sound like a politician. Really. Trust me. I never said it.

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So, dear reader, go mining your old family photos for poetry and prose ideas. Just be prepared for the explosion of feelings and sensory images all that effort provokes. Happy digging. Let me know what…turns up!

By the way, today (18th) would have been Mom’s 96th birthday. Happy Birthday, Mom! Love you! And give Daddy a hug for me.


I wish I could remember which journalist years ago explained his major pet peeve. I’d probably punch him in the nose. Why? His explanation has stuck to me like superglue and my eardrums rub raw every time I hear the phrase. And I hear it dozens of times a day.

His major pet peeve irked whenever he heard a guest reply, “Thanks for having me,” for appearing on the host’s program. The journalist said hearing those words conjured up all sorts of vivid, illicit images of the manner in which the host “had” the guest! And, I wonder, when? Before the show? Where? In the Green Room…or a quickie in the broom closet? I might add, “Thanks for having me on your show” is even worse. I’m tempted to switch channels on hearing that one. Is that a wink-wink way of hinting at live sex? Don’t think I’d care to watch. I’d hate to see anyone’s…shortcomings exposed.

My inquisitive mind wanders to wondering if the guest might be the son or daughter of the interviewer. Who was the interviewer’s mate? Was it a long labor? C-section? Natural delivery? By the time I finish my speculations, the interview has passed and I’ve lost all but the lasting impression that I infer from… “Thanks for having me.”

Dear Guest,

I suggest any of the following replies to your host:

“Thanks for inviting me.”

“Nice to be here.”

“Thank you.”

Or just a gracious “You’re welcome.”

(And you needn’t thank me.)

That being said, That being said… ranks in the top ten on my list of pet peeves. I yell at the offender, “Of course, you idiot, we heard you say it!” Find another segue! Excluding politicians, you’re on radio or TV because you are fairly educated, reasonably intelligent, and somewhat adept at promoting your point of view, yes? Vary your routine. “However,” is nice. “But, we must remember,” is pretty good. “Also, let’s consider,” is a possibility. Don’t go near “On the other hand.” That’s another of my pet peeves. It’s excusable if you have only one other point to make, as you have only one other hand. I hope.

“Look.” I cringe at that one. It implies that having been asked a question, the interviewer is too stupid or inept to follow the answer. It’s insulting. Look, make me happy. Just drop it, and make your point.

“Listen.” That, too, insults your conversation partner. It assumes that having made a point, your host is about to reach up and switch off his hearing aid before you can reply. Listen, take a deep breath and just go into your rebuttal.

Okay, my curmudgeonly comments are complete is for now, but, yes, I’ll be back! In closing, let me say thanks for having…an open mind. (Whew! That was a close one.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

D on D Blog JULY 2016       AS OF YET…

 

 

…I have no explanation for as of yet. I see no yet on my watch, or any clock. Does it serve well as a time reference? Can we say: “The cake will be done as of yet.” “The train will arrive as of yet on Friday.” “We are open as of yet to five o’clock.” Nor do I see yet on my calendar. Sunday through Saturday, yes. As of yet? No. January through December, yes. As of yet? No. Can’t somebody outlaw this one? (As of yet, no!) Maybe we’d have better luck outlawing the journalists who utter it.

 

Then there’s the idiom about the clock. You know, that dirty clock that belongs to John. “He’s going to clean John’s clock.” Am I that young, or are these journalists that old? Clean a clock? Don’t we just throw them out and buy another from China, so we can throw that one out and keep the Chinese economy perking? What I mean guys, is be creative. Bring it up to date. How about, “He’ll erase John’s hard drive,” or “He’ll wipe out John’s accounts.” Even “He’s going to wash John’s chalkboard” would be less lame than clean his clock. If he wants to clean something, I’ve got a garage I want him to see.

 

While we’re on the subject, think about “They’ll take him to the cleaner’s.” I’m always tempted to help him by interrupting with, “What if he wants to go to Walgreen’s or Walmart? Be generous. Take him out for the whole day!”

 

At times, reworking hackneyed idioms and clichés such as you missed the boat requires engaging brain before opening mouth. In my literal-minded third-grade class, during a question-answer session at the end of the day, Miguel badly missed the mark with an obvious guess at an answer to my question. The kind of guess that leaves the class snickering. I smiled and attempted to make light of his gaff.

 

“Gosh, Miguel,” I said, “you really missed the bus on that one.” Hands flew up eager to share the right answer, and my attention was drawn away from Miguel, who rose and headed for the door. “I gotta go,” he said. This was not unusual. As long as the lavatory privilege was not abused, and not more than one child was out of the room at a time, such announcements were common. What was uncommon was to have the guidance counselor return Miguel to class minutes later.

“Did you tell Miguel it was time to go home?”

“No. Why?”

“But you said I missed the bus,” Miguel protested.

 

I sagged under the weight of a long day, tired feet, and a blossoming headache brought on by realizing what might happen when an idiot skews an idiom!

 

So, choose even your semi-original phrases carefully. Particularly in multicultural situations where American idioms don’t translate well into foreign understanding.

 

As of yet, I am out of pet peeves, but this an election year, and there’s a lot to dislike out there! Stay tuned for the possible Return of the Curmudgeon!

 


GOLD IN YOUR SHORTS

Okay. Let’s get this straight. I am not suggesting something suggestive here. No off color (or full color) adult movies or photog sessions you’ll regret later in life — like when you’re the top box-office star, or you’re running for political office. Oh, wait. Rules apply only to real people. Let’s try again.

You’re a newbie at the Prim & Proper Inc. Under the influence of a couple of rum-laced eggnogs at the holiday party, you decide to Xerox your private parts. Word gets around, accompanied by the photos. Result? Because you are a real person, you find your holiday gift is the address of the local unemployment office. So, no; titillating temptations are not what I mean by Gold in Your Shorts.

While you are waiting for enough experience (and luck) to write the next blockbuster bestseller, think small. I know, I know. Everybody tries to sell you rose-colored glasses and THINK BIG slogans. Fine. Have goals. And if you didn’t have the lousy home life that drove so many successful people, pretend you did. Little Orphan Annie, and all that. Maybe you are dealing with misery in your life right now. Thank him or her. You’re already halfway to success. Meanwhile, Think Small. Write small.

You can write a short story or a small “How To” book for Kindle. You might have your doubts about putting out one more self-help article, but readers are often drawn to the experiences of people like themselves. Ever read something and think there’s a better way? Write about it. Check magazines for those who take short articles and lists called fillers. Things like “Ten Ways to keep your Man/Woman/Toddler/Teenager/Mom/Dad Happy.” Get the idea? Query submission procedures if not given. Google for a gaggle of ideas. Think small. Write small. There’s gold in your shorts!


My resolution has always been to not clog the blogosphere with ramblings day-to-day or week-to-week. That carries over year-to-year with my unfailing adherence. It’s the one resolution I always keep. Until now.

My January vows to lose weight, to exercise more, to see- and/or phone my friends and neighbors more often somehow fade away like nightmares in daylight as the weeks go by. Then J.D. Salinger happened to change all that. Well, yes, he actually happened on January 1, 1919 and unhappened on January 27, 2010, at his home in Cornish, New Hampshire.

Last November, three of his unpublished stories were posted online for a short time, and I’m wondering how they slipped out, as his will says they may not be published until fifty years after his death. It may be these are part of what’s said to be allowed to be published between 2015 and 2020. Anyway, about a week ago, all this was revealed in a TV program as news, which did remind me however, that J.D. and I have a bit in common.

NO, unfortunately, as yet I have not made the NYT Bestsellers list. I assume he was financially able to live the life of a recluse in New Hampshire and devote his time to writing. Just writing. He loved to write, but hated publishing, which he considered an imposition on his time. Of course, we differ in that I cannot afford to do the same, but I’m sure he, too, would have some choice words for today’s demand on a writer to spread oneself across  a gazillion media formats.

To me, it’s a bit like stripping oneself naked for approval before one’s services are purchased. There’s a name for that.


Maybe most of us can’t remember back that far, but watch a baby in a highchair being fed mush. Strained peas, carrots, squash, bananas, peaches, prunes (really?), beef, chicken, lamb—ad nauseam.

My least favorite, so my mother says, was applesauce. In fact, from those highchair days on, any time I screwed up my face in disgust, my parents called it my “Applesauce Face.”

Watch that same baby when folks around the table are eating dinner, too. That lovey becomes a cranky terror who dumps his dish, knock over his bottle and raises a holy hullaballoo! Little One is saying, “I’d kill for one of those chicken legs to sink my teeth into. Or gums. Just give me real food!”

It occurred to me that this is the way I feel about modern media. To me, there’s an enormous amount of brainpower, electricity, and battery power—not to mention time—wasted on…mush. I do not twitter or tweet. I am not a twit. Okay, so this leaves me out of a market to sell my stuff. I really don’t care. Minds of 140 characters are not those I’m trying to reach.

I don’t iPhone, either. I do blog. I do Facebook. When I want to. Not good enough? Too bad. I’ve got a life to live, and there’s a hell of a lot of world out there I haven’t seen yet. To prevent my bottom from developing acreage by sitting in front of a computer, to avoid driving into a canal and drowning from yakking on the cell phone or texting, I’m going to do it “My Way,” like Frankie.

Anybody else brave enough to speak up?