…AND OTHER ROADBLOCKS IN WRITING!

Tag Archives: technology

The comics section is my favorite part of any newspaper. Oh, yes, I keep up with local, national, and world reports in other media. By the time the newspaper covers a story, I’ve already been there, done that. But the comics is where I go to detox from the sad state of reality. Or swallow it with a bit of satire and strong coffee.

When the alarm clock rings, I tumble out of bed, into the “Jumble.” No, that’s not a Tai-Chi routine to force my limbs into some semblance of proper functioning.  “Jumble” is Hoyt’s and Knurek’s word scramble that yields clues to solve the incomplete sentence posed by the cartoon.

Since playing with words is my business, I usually sail through the first clues in a few seconds then focus on unscrambling the answer to the picture clues. There, thanks to my punny sense of humor being on par with that of the strip’s creators, the answer is often immediately apparent. However, if the final clue involves sports, forget it. I don’t speak “sports.” Not since the Dodgers left Brooklyn and “sports” management became as morally suspect as Machiavelli’s The Prince, or The Art of Certain Deals.

On Sundays, from the “Jumble” I flip to the visual acuity tests. In one, you must find the six differences between two seemingly different scenes. In another, you pick the one scene that differs from the other two, and move on to help Slylock Fox solve a woodlands crime. Yes, these are ostensibly for kids, but since I am in my second childhood (never really left it) I feel a retrospective sense of peace. It’s 1950-something, Mom and Dad are downstairs in the kitchen, and all’s right with the world.

And, while fun, such acuity tests are a reminder that things are not always what they seem. You cannot look at anything with someone else’s eyes. You MUST dig for the truth yourself, or the world will fall into a sorry state. Oh, wait. Right. We’re already there, but it’s not too late to redeem ourselves!

“Aren’t many comic strips often vehicles for political satire?” Sure, and done with a little humor (okay, sarcasm, maybe) they bring a chuckle or a groan. They make you think. Or they should. But at least comics aren’t as acerbic or poisonous as what comes from a political campaign. Except for a certain ugly duck ‘toon character I’d gladly roast and serve a l’orange, along with his ham of a creator.

“There are other programs to improve mental functioning, yes?” Of course, there are many sophisticated mental gymnastics to which one can subscribe. I’m not saying that moving up a notch is meritless, but why not make it a morning routine to digest brain food with ham and eggs?

You’re about to ask what this has to do with writing! (Gotcha!) Consider how you solved visual puzzles. Metaphorically speaking, turn your work upside down or on its sides to reveal another perspective. Put it aside and return with a clearer point of view. Read it aloud to others. Are they hearing what you intended? Do you need to rewrite for clarity?

What about word jumble puzzles? When they don’t work at first glance, I write the letters on scrap paper, tear them apart and put all the vowels in the middle, surrounded by consonants. Then I work from outside in and inside out until the A-ha! moment strikes. You can do this with sentences, paragraphs, and whole scenes in your writing.

A scene that’s going nowhere? Maybe the sequence of events is fine, but it needs a twist. Turn it upside down, left-to-right, backward. Use “What if. . .” scenarios. What if Jane marries Frank? What if she just lives with him? What if she cheats on him, or he cheats on her?  Where does your story go from there? Remember choose-your-own-ending stories so popular with kids before the electronics boom? Those stories taught children there was more than one way a problem might work out. (Congress, are you listening?)

Still stuck? Bring your baby to your critique group for a different perspective. (You DO belong to one, yes?) Listen to their often Solomon-like wisdom. They’ll be happy to help you to “. . .train up your child in the way (s)he should grow. . . ” and get you to your A-ha! moment.

And dig into the comics. It’s fun.

 

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I promise to not detail much of the above, lest I launch a rant. Legitimate, but still a rant…and ladies don’t rant—except for one who does so with courage and justifiable outrage, and a second who informs with satirical humor aimed at the state of affairs, or the Affairs of State. What prompted my muddled, misdirected condition of mind was that because my one-and-a-half-year-old Mac crapped out (thank you, Murphy) at a crucial point in my work, I had time to “poor me” and watch TV. I don’t know Murphy’s opinion on lightning, but I know it CAN strike twice in the same place. I’ll expand on only the first topic, computers, as I have not had time to see anything humorous in the others.

Let’s hop in the TARDIS and shift back almost two years. There was Murphy, waiting for me, and he did a déjà vu of the future. He struck my seven-year-old Mac’s new hard drive with a blitz of color snow like old TVs. It was a built-in omen that Mac was about to suffer a heart attack. Which it soon did. And with a flagrant fizzle, frying some of my potentially Nobel Prize winning writing.

Walt, my patient husband, loaded Dead Mac and me into the van and rushed us to Apple Hospital sixty miles away, while enduring my many Navy Post-Grad creative invectives hurled at the Apple God for birthing such a demon. The heart transplant was successful, and Walt suggested he’d deal with Old Mac’s increasing age-prone illnesses and adopt New Mac for me. After saving up the hefty adoption fee, we welcomed Newbie into our home.

Back in the TARDIS to present time. Our infant New Mac suffers the same technicolor snowstorm and craps out. Another one-hundred-twenty-mile round trip to the AH (no reimbursement for mileage) and we are told it was a software issue. “One,” I asked, “that Apple has not solved in more than two years? Somebody needs to be fired!” I have visions of the failure cause and lack of remedy.

One: In ancient times, royal seamstresses went blind sewing extremely fine stitches in royal garments. Today, I see twenty-something blind women and men tapping their white canes down China’s roads as they are dismissed from working at creating computer circuitry.

Two: Apple Gods: “Hey, tech support is for only three years. Deal with it. Suckers will get pissed and buy a new computer. That will keep us in mega-bucks, and you in your cubicles.”

What has this got to do with writing? Really? Okay. A painful situation can be alleviated with satire, a hint of sarcasm, perhaps a sprinkle of anthropomorphism, and a little bit of creativity. Much more entertaining than the slush that ends up in the newspapers as vicious opinion, right? Remember Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels? Quite entertaining and a safer approach than a direct attack on the conditions of his times.

So, here’s your assignment. Take your finest pet peeve. Ruminate on it awhile and come back with a piece that makes us see things your way…or at least enjoy your humorous approach. Write on!


TECHNOL-OH, GEE!

…And I could use different words, but nice sources would never print them.

Today, following the requisite doctor visits and errands, I came home to a frustrated husband at the computer. He needed some reprints, but the printer didn’t seem to want to cooperate. I explained that I would try intervention, and speak to the printer directly. Unlike Walter, I never try to get the printer to cooperate via the computer. Metaphorically speaking, the Apple computer is a cat, my Epson Workforce printer is a dog. They sometimes have issues that require mediation. My husband is a genius at placating the cat, I claim title for the most successes with coddling the dog into submission.

Dog must be having a really bad day. My husband reported that Dog refused to recognize the black cartridge as his. I questioned the creature’s bias, because he’d gotten along smashingly with the black cartridge for some weeks now, and Blackie was still full of inky energy and raring to go. With reluctance, I exchanged black 1 for black 2, which placated Dog for a while, but then he balked again.

This time he railed against magenta, yellow, and cyan. I lectured him on the evils of prejudice and explained fair play. In our house, we accept them all: black, red, yellow or…blue. I scooped up all three rejected hues, cleaned heads, scoured them for bugs and did muzzle–er–nozzle checks…several times over. Dog still refused to cooperate. Despite accepting them into his nest, he refused to let them show their colors.

I did a few more tests and a bit more research. Red, Yellow and Blue were born in 2014. Now, near the end of 2015, they are reaching a dog’s age for cartridge longevity. Perhaps their youthful get-up-and-go has got up and gone. Perhaps I need a trip to the hallowed ground at Staples to commune with a higher source for inspiration…and some new cartridges.

Great idea! There’s a Total Wine shop nearby with a super selection of wines for tasting, and some won-n-n-derful take-home Pinto Grigios. We’ll whip that dog-gone printer into shape yet!

Cheers!


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?