Author Archives: Anony Mole

Writer’s Log: 1400 what we remember

Update: I’m back on my first manuscript, Blue Across the Sea, rewriting it for self-publishing on Draft2Digital here soon. This story portrays a designed environment, a bucolic dis-utopian future set in the Great Basin (which is now the Bonneville Inland Sea). I had a great time writing it, but my skills were pitiful — and it shows now that I’m going back through it.

Incidentally, Shadow Shoals takes place in the same future time frame – but on the East Coast of the US. These stories are 200+ years post CME.

~~~

I sat and thought last weekend about stories and what we remember from them. What makes a story memorable? I’m struggling with trying to get the parts of a story balanced: plot, setting, conflict, events, characterization, and dialog. And I wondered if the things we remember about a story might help focus my emphasis. And here is one theory I came up with: What we remember are the people, settings and events.

In M.R. Carey’s The Girl with all the Gifts I remember the classroom, the chemical scrub, the gnashing of teeth at the sergeant’s arm, the girl strapped to the table about to get her brain removed, the escape from the facility, the bouncing trip in the HumVee, the use of a tiny girl as a lure, the grey wall of fungus.

Do I remember any dialog? No. I remember what happened, the events and the reactions, the suffocating thought of spores entering my lungs. The realization that this was the best representation of zombies ever.

I don’t remember anything anybody said. I recall the girl was super bright, and the teacher naive (no doubt communicated through dialog). But nothing specific.

There’s this YouTube ad, a grizzled writer (for a Masters Class I think) sits and talks, “I’ll a piece of paper, and a pen would be nice, and I’ll sit down and write some dialog.”

I imagine two friends stepping out from the theater after they saw that paper and pen dialog movie, they meet a third friend:

“So, what’d you think?”
“It was good.”
“Tell me about it.”
“Well, it was two people talking.”
“And what happened?”
“Nothing really. The man smoked a pipe. The woman drank coffee. They were both in their sixties.”
“Nothing happened?”
“They talked.”
“Okay. About what then?”
“Oh, life, love, this and that, I don’t really remember.”
“But it was good.”
“Yeah, but, no, nothing happened. Oh, wait, the guy made a mess with the ashes as he cleaned his pipe.”

We remember events and setting and situations and rarely what anybody said.

Dialog seems to represent the feel and packaging of a character. Dialog is the critical glue that holds story parts together. The parts might be good and memorable on their own, but how we get from scene to scene is people talking us through it.

Yet, we remember the parts and not the glue.

I’m sure there are exceptions, but, again, I’m seeking broad spectrum heuristics here that I can remember as general application rules.


I need a new alcohol

No, it’s not “I need a new drug”, I’m not Huey Lewis & The News. I don’t want a pill or a powder. I want a new alcohol-like substitute.

One that doesn’t cost too much, taste too bad, one that’s yeah, just right. But I DO want it to make me sick if I take too much, penalize me if I over indulge, or do stupid shit.

Alcohol costs too damn much these days. Beer is $10 a sixpack now! Whaaa? The good stuff, the drinkable IPAs, that is. Sure, I can suck down boxed wine, but hell, the stigma and haughtiness of drinking wine — nope. Drinking the tall, dark, clear, amber, glorious stuff — you know it. I’ll do it, but damn, a bottle might last a week.

No, I need a new, designer alcohol, created by bio engineers and chemists to be effective, debilitating, short lived, tasty and cheap.

Why?

Because I’m a sacrificial sot.

What does that mean? This is what that means. It means I hereby sacrifice my life working a job I hate, for an industry I despise, eight to ten hours a day all so that the people I love can continue to exist, get educated, and hopefully pursue better lives than me.

“Oh, you hate your job? Well, quit!” WTF! I can’t quit. I have to keep doing what I do in order to pay the thousands of dollars a month bills to keep this tiny family-engine running. If I were to quit, go off into the wild, live my dream life, the three or five or eight people who directly (and indirectly) rely upon my income, my sacrifice, would perish (or at least suffer considerably).

And everyone who says otherwise is utterly full of delusional visions of a nonexistent lifestyle.

So, to endure my servitude (more like slavitude) (which I accept fully) I need temporary nocturnal divestiture of my responsibilities. And I access such a release through the application of a simple chemical compound known as ethanol.

But, for some reason, the stuff has grown expensive and frankly, entangled with too many societal caveats of acceptable behavior. Fuck that. I just want a new alcohol. One that will cut through the sticky pop-culture, inane, seething world and erase, for a time, my worries of said world.

Is that too much to ask?

Apparently.

 

 


Comedic impedance mismatch

Could you be a comedian?

Imagine the mind of Robin Williams, Jim Carey or Sarah Silverman? (Or any of the hundreds of manic, amazing comedians of our time.)

I could never be a comedian, even close to their caliber. However, my mind is capable of understanding and instantly embracing what those folks relate through their stories and monologues.

How can this be? I can know exactly what Louis C.K is saying and how it relates to me and the world and why it’s funny — but I couldn’t possibly recreate his material? How can I know but not produce?

Now, this is not an art craft like painting, dancing or sculpting. Activities that would take me decades to master (if ever). No, all this is is the simple knowing of a thing. The information, available for the taking from the world around us and presented, matter-of-factly, to me, through animated presentation.

Obviously this view is malformed. Although the information that comprises a comedian’s material is right there — in front of me — the mixing, the timing, the delivery the sequence is all much, much more than just the information.

This is what I call comedic impedance mismatch. When you’re done enjoying a comedian’s routine, you’ve not really amassed any new respect for the skill-acquisition of the human race. The information used by the comedian came from everyday life, the news, books and media and movies and songs — stuff we’ve all already experienced. They didn’t learn a new way to be a human and absorb information differently.

But somehow, a comedian can blend these mundane features of our world in such a way that transcends our simplistic views of that same world. They see the world differently.

Painting you can learn. Dancing, visual and material arts can be practiced. But comedy? I’m not sure that that can ever be taught. We can enjoy those comedic moments as recipients of revelatory, recombinant info-bytes. But to create them? I’m not sure that is a learnable skill.

 


Arrogance vs humility

“I’ve got the biggest muscles, the smartest brain, an inexhaustible stamina and the longest penis; if you dragged me behind ten horses I could plow a thousand acres with my stiff rod. Follow me and I’ll lead you to greatness!”

“I’m no one in particular, but I’m pretty sure that that first fellow is lying his ass off. I’m fairly wise and I’ll lead you where I think it’s safe and prosperous, but I offer no guarantees nor promises of sanctuary or fulfillment.”

“I’m the most fertile, most skilled, most versatile female you’ll ever find. My vagina can field strip and clean an M-16 in under a minute. Follow me and your land will flow with grain and populate with beasts of burden, you will never want nor suffer drought nor famine.”

“I can advise you to how to plant and grow your crops, raise your children and strive for a fulfilling life. And unlike that first woman, I may err at times, but my heart is true and I’ll never deceive you.”

~~~

Alright, I had to go there. Those visions, when I had them, just struck me as hilarious. But their personifications provides me with the fodder for my argument, which is, why do we scoff at arrogance but gravitate toward humility?

If that first couple showed up on the world’s stage, wouldn’t you think that, holy shit! These folks have got it goin’ on. They must be near-enough to gods!

But that couldn’t be further from the truth. We despise arrogance and bravado. Yet, one would think, that such attributes would have somehow tracked through our genetic history much more often than meekness and humility. The strong and forthright prevail right?

No, they don’t seem to. Somehow we detect the falseness, the insincerity of their claims. Even toned down ten-fold we’d still be put off by that couple. Why? Good looking, virile, fertile, single minded and determined — why would we disdain them?

Somehow we are attracted to those who demure their prowess, who are self-effacing. Those who would rather shift the accolades away from themselves and onto others, others who might be worthy, but not as worthy. An unassuming hero or heroine is so much more appealing than one who is vain or pretentious. Even though the deed might deserve declaration at the highest order.

What is it in us that favors the mild mannered legend rather than the haughty demigod?

 

 


Transitory associations

If you’ve have had a number of jobs in your life, you’ll understand that, although some of those friendships you developed at prior workplaces may linger, if you don’t share some fundamental feature of human understanding — they’ll probably fade.

The same goes for neighbors you’ve had as you’ve moved your body around the world. As well as friendships you’ve had in high school or college. People come and go in your life, some last a day, some a year and some much longer.

Perhaps the hardest part of friendship is letting go.

I had a dear friend in high school. My only friend in high school, really. We played hookie together, were on the same sports team (rifle team) and worked the same strange summer job our 17th and 18th years (running a blueberry farm in Frankford, Delaware). We went our separate ways our last September and lost touch but for a faint spiderweb tendril that joined us and wavered in the wind every so often. Strangely, we got married the same calendar day, and married a woman of the same name, all unbeknownst to each other.

He committed suicide a few years ago. I have never learned why he didn’t bother to say goodbye. I would have understood.

We ride this train and people step on and off our personal Pullman car. Yet in the end we pull into the station alone. Waving goodbye, along the way, to those who have ridden with us through the rough spots, the early track, the long lonely stretches — is hard.

But you get used to it and learn that people come and go. And that is just the way of it.

Friendships melt like winter snow and are followed by blossom-like faces of new acquaintances, who, if you’re lucky, may sing to you songs of the fresh season.

 

 


Mirror, mirror

Here’s a curious concept you might ponder today:

cavemanmirrorHumanity has only, within the last 3-5000 years (and really only in the last few hundred) been able to few their own visage in a mirror.

Prehistoric humans never knew what they, themselves, looked like. Sure they could look into a clear pond (or often a wide darken bowl) and hope it was still and thereby get some idea of their appearance. But mirrors came to be — for the wealthy — only a few millennia ago (copper and bronze polished things that barely worked “through a mirror, darkly”) and with silvered glass, only about 200 years ago.
[Wikipedia has a brief history of the mirror.]

My thoughts are with those folks before the Greeks, Egyptians, and Sumerians (Narcissus did looked into a pool and fall in love, and Socrates talked about being able to see one’s image). Imagine going through life never knowing what you looked like. Do I look like pa? Or ma? Oof! The mystic man there is one ugly dude, do I look like him?

We take so many things for granted today. Being able to see one’s self in a mirror is one we seldom consider. Is is possible that superficial vanity, the vanity of appearance, came to be only in the recent past? How would your thoughts of yourself change were you to have never seen yourself in a mirror?


Which one are you?

In ninth grade (freshman high school) I sat, dull-eyed, at a desk while the English teacher, a fellow who, I’ll admit, was pretty animated, proceeded to, oddly enough, perform a statistical test on the class.

“Who wants to bet that at least two of you (a class of 30) have the same birthday?”

We all, as group, took the bet.

He then went around the room, alphabetically, asking each of us our birthday.

When he got to Billy Baker, Billy announced his date.

I was dumbstruck. It was the same damn day as mine. Now, Billy was somewhat of a student to be admired: played the trumpet, was good looking, clear skin, got straight A’s. I instantly thought to myself, “Whoa, that’s too cool. Me and Billy have the same birthday (and birth year), we’re exactly the same age! Neat-o!”

And so I blared out this fact to the class. Well, Billy sat just to the right of me and he immediately turned and shushed me down. “Shut up you fool. We can’t let this teacher win.”

Billy possessed the presence of mind to be able to react in a way that would no doubt favor him later in life. I, on the other hand, reacted with total, gleeful abandon, without any regard to the bet or the fallout of the experiment. I was oblivious.

So, class, which one are you?

A: Are you a Billy and on constant street-smarts awareness as to how any situation (and your reaction to it) might benefit you?

B: A foolish dunderhead who is just damn happy to have had some relation, albeit remote, to one of the cool kids in school? And generally incognizant of how to play the world to your advantage?