July 31, 2007

Ten on Tuesday: 10 Countries I'd Like to Visit


10 Countries I'd Like to Visit
I've been to quite a few already, and many of those I'd like to return to for a closer look, but this list comprises only places I'd like to go where I've not been.

  1. Nepal and/or Tibet
  2. Brazil
  3. Ireland
  4. Italy
  5. Spain
  6. Australia
  7. Holland
  8. Lithuania (some of my ethnic roots are there, but I know nothing about the place)
  9. Argentina
  10. Russia
Anyone want to go with?

July 27, 2007

Fiction Friday: Play on Words

This Week’s Theme: Use the word afoot in dialog.
The scene: A wood. Enter two gentlemen (Rollick and Given), swords drawn. They do not look particularly aware of their surroundings, appearing to be engrossed in conversation.
G: What did you say to him then?
R: You were there, you should know.
G: I was? I should?
R: Certainly.
G: Ah. But. Well.
R: You don't remember, do you?
G: Of course I remember.
R: Then what did I say to him?
G: Weren't you listening either?
R, exasperated, stops and points his sword at G's chest.
G: Ah, I remember now! It was something about cards.
They continue strolling, swords idle in their hands.
R: We were playing Ruff and Trump.
G: On my honours, yes. It's all coming back to me now. The hand plays cards, the mind plays tricks.
R: Get on, then.
G: Let's play a hand!
R: I haven't got the cards. He has them.
G: No, no, that's what you said. "Let's play a hand."
R: Hmm. I don't think so. It wasn't a hand. It was a different part of the anatomy.
G stops and looks shocked.
R: No, no, not that part. I think it was another extremity.
G: Perhaps you said, "This will come to a head." You were also drinking beer.
R: And there's the trick in it. A beer in the hand makes the cards sticky.
G: I bet.
R: No, you didn't.
G: What?
R: You didn't bet. In fact, I can't recall your ante.
G: Well, of course you can't. My parents had no sisters.
R: What are you on about now? Watch where you're stepping.
G: I never had an auntie. My parents were only children.
R stops, looks quizzically at G.
R: Your parents were only children.
G: That's right.
R: When they had you. When you were born, they were only children.
G: Their entire lives. And they'll be only children when they die.
R (expression showing sudden enlightment): Ah, I see. As I can hardly bear you myself. I didn't see how only a child could have borne you.
G: It would be a difficult burden to shoulder indeed.
R: Your mother must be strong.
G: As a bear.
R: With shoulders like a bear?
G: Bare shoulders, sometimes. But never while playing cards.
R: She must protect her honours lest she be termed a rough strumpet. Watch where you're stepping.
G: I think it was a foot.
R: How's that again?
G: You said something about a foot. He said "Let's play a hand," and you replied, "Now the game's a foot."
R: Afoot.
G (stopping in triumph): Exactly!
R: It's all running together for me.
G: The feet?
R: The memories.
G: That would be the beer.
R turns and stabs G in the arm; G drops his sword and holds the wound, shocked.
R: That would be defeat.

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July 26, 2007

Thursday Thirteen (#15) : Reality TV!

In honor of one of yesterday's 3WW words, today's Thirteen consists of reality TV shows I'd like to see. Or rather, shows I think someone will eventually make but from which I will stay far away. I wouldn't be surprised if half of these were in work already. The venerable "Survivor" series started it all, with "Big Brother" not far behind. Big Brother was the beginning of the end, stretching the meaning of "reality" to be "anything where we can get non-actors to make each other cry." Now we've got what appear to be hundreds of "reality" shows including The Bachelor (yeah, now that's reality), Wife Swap, Nanny 911, Fear Factor, The Biggest Loser, and even kids shows. So, in the spirit of further stretching the definition of reality, here are my thirteen suggestions:
  1. Tailback. Math Club members compete to see which gets to be the starting running back for the big Homecoming game.
  2. Blogmaster. Cameras follow bloggers around as they try to build traffic on their sites and undercut each other's credibility.
  3. Who Wants to Be A Senator? Contestants are judged on how much campaign cash they raise and how much mud they can throw during a series of timed contests.
  4. I Run, Iran. Actual politicians go through Basic Training to see which will be embedded with the first Marines when a lame-duck Bush sends troops into Iran. Surprise ending: All the competitors are sent in, to the delight of the voting public.
  5. Tour de Baghdad. Any Tour de France cyclist who tests positive for banned substances must compete in a series of road races in Baghdad.
  6. Liquor Up Front, Poker in the Rear. Contestants must participate in a series of intense drinking contests, then play Texas Hold 'em until only one player remains.
  7. J. Edgar Housewife. A number of nosy busybodies move into a house next door to a known mob boss. Whoever gathers the most evidence that will stand up in court wins.
  8. Survivor: Preschool. Contestants are dropped into the middle of a preschool and must survive on wits and skill. Contests to include calming a room full of ADHD three-year-olds, dealing with potty training accidents, holding an "open house" for parents, and identifying which cleaning products are least ineffective at killing germs.
  9. Shotgun Wedding. A pregnant teen identifies all the boys who could be the father of her baby, and the future father-in-law selects one to Take Responsibility.
  10. Illegal. Mexican citizens must choose whether to attempt navigating the bureaucracy or crossing dangerous swamps infested with poisonous snakes and bigoted vigilantes to try to enter the US.
  11. Perfect Match. Cameras follow the highs and lows of a group of people using online dating services. The first couple to marry wins.
  12. Cats and Dogs. Owners of pit bulls move into the apartments next door to owners of mountain lions. The owners and their pets must compete in games designed to take advantage of their aggressive natures.
  13. Pimp My Daughter. Parents compete to see who can make the most money by forcing their teenage daughters into prostitution. Lighthearted and fun contests include who can turn the most tricks in one night and who can get the highest-profile politician as a regular customer.
Please, someone, make this "reality TV" madness stop. But if anyone out there reading this is a TV producer, I'd be happy to talk to you about buying the rights to these ideas.

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!
The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

July 25, 2007

haiku wednesday

This week's words are

don't mind the steroids
Bonds fan looks the other way
reality ball

fan creative flames
fiction or reality?
it's all in the mind

July 23, 2007

Ten on Tuesday: 10 Nice Things


10 Nicest Things that People Have Done for You
I can't wait to read this week's posts. It'll be like a reality TV scripting version of "Pay It Forward." In making my list, I specifically excluded family (how many people will say "my mom gave me life"?) because family are supposed to do nice things for you. Otherwise, you end up on the Springer show. I also excluded people who did nice things as part of their job, like the American Airlines attendants who were so accommodating to us on that cross-country flight with a toddler and an inconsolable baby. (I did, however, write a letter to the airline praising them.) But here goes, with a raised glass to those who did me a good turn and which, I hope, I have paid forward at least in part in my time:

  1. Thank you Mrs. Grace Curtis, my sitter for several years in elementary school. Often on summer Saturdays, my friends and I would arrive at your condo unannounced, sweaty on our bikes, and you never failed to invite us in, give us cold drinks, and let us swim in the pool.
  2. Thank you, Mr. Kretzmer. How old was I, eleven? I sat on that baseball field alone as darkness fell, and when you drove by you recognized me as Mark's little brother. My dad thought my sister was supposed to pick me up, and she thought he was picking me up. Thank you for rescuing me after that lonely two-hour wait, and for taking me out to ice cream with your family, and for calling my dad to let him know I was OK and then for taking me home.
  3. Thank you, Alastair and Linda Houston, formerly of Dumbarton, Scotland. Though we had never met before, you gladly took us into your house overnight, took us out to dinner and beers, and showed us some local sights on our drive through Scotland. I will never forget the hike up the Dumpling or the very special "tablet" you left for us after breakfast.
  4. Thank you, Gene Anderson, for helping me build this awesome wall in my house that allows me to have a home office... with a locking door.
  5. Thank you, UC Men's Octet, for not pulling a Simon Cowell on me when I totally sucked in my audition in 1988. Though my second try was not so bad, my first try was so off key I should have been thrown gruffly through the window. Instead, you offered encouragement and then rejected me with grace and geniality.
  6. Thank you, Belinda, for hanging with me when I crashed from my first big break-up. We all have to go through it, and I was lucky to have your shoulder to cry on.
  7. Thank you, Marge Noble, for allowing your house to be a second home for me growing up. You not only let me in whenever I wandered next door, but you even took me to your cabin on the lake, where Blake (your nephew? friend's child?) introduced me to the concept of the Playboy centerfold.
  8. Thank you, random anonymous cute chick, for saying I had a nice smile as you walked by that day in Sproul Plaza. It was a crappy day until that moment, and although I have no idea who you were and have never seen you since, I'll never forget that tiny kindness.
  9. Thank you, random anonymous German person, who helped me navigate the Hamburg train station and allowed me to get back to Hannover on the night's last train so I wouldn't be absent for my duty at CeBIT the next morning.
  10. Thank you, the gang at the B-2 project, for the lovely going-away card and money tree when I left to move back to California. You were all good friends, and I miss you even though it's been 15 years and we've entirely lost touch.
When something is given out of altruistic generosity, with no expectations of return or gain, it can make a tremendous impact on someone else's life. I think I am a better person for how these ten things have helped form me as I've grown. Grace and generosity never go out of style.

July 20, 2007

I woke with a jolt

Another quake this morning, at 4:42 a.m. The USGS says it was 4.2 in the Oakland area. It felt to us like a 3.1 or 3.2 nearby. The house shook a bit and the bed swayed for several seconds. No big deal, but it's always interesting. I mean, it could have been an 8.0 in San Francisco or something. Nice way to start a Friday.

Fiction Friday: gone campin'

Sorry everyone, but I can't do FF today because we're off on our annual camping trip with all the other families. We leave in three hours and still have lots of packing! (I could have written earlier this week, but I've been working 16 hour days since Sunday and am still behind deadline.)

See you next week! I hope I get to read some of this week's entries when I'm back on Monday.

July 19, 2007

Thursday Thirteen (#14) : thirteen seconds of silence

I noticed in my sidebar this morning that to date we've lost 3,628 American soldiers in the Iraq war. So far. That's more people than Katrina killed. That's way more people than the 9/11 terrorists killed (2,981). (Which, by the way, had nothing to do with Iraq or Saddam Houssein.)

Today for my Thursday Thirteen I am going to set aside thirteen minutes of silence to think about the soldiers who have lost their lives in the recent wars, the civilians who are dealing with death and fear every day in those areas, the families of our service people who sacrifice so much for our country's leaders, and the troops still overseas in danger's gunsights.

July 18, 2007

haiku wednesday

This week's words are

Two attempts this week since I missed last week (at a conference). I don't have much time today either, so the quality's not quite up to snuff. Anyway, another one for writers, and one for hitchhiker nostalgia.

cope with rejection
one's true character revealed
I'll stick with it, thanks

no ride; how to cope?
leg coyly revealed roadside
stick your thumb out, babe

July 17, 2007

Tiffany Roberts Fan Club

I remember when Tiffany Roberts, Carondelet grad, was selected for the US Women's national soccer team. Local girl elevated to the highest level of the sport, played in two World Cups, won an Olympic Gold Medal... big star by any reckoning, for sure. I often rooted for her specifically when I watched the team play since she came from the same area where my children were born and are now growing up. Today I became a huge fan.

About two weeks ago, the pickup soccer game I play in on Tuesday lunchtime was kicked off a nearly empty field because the youth coach who had the field reserved... well, I can't understand what his motivation was. His practice covered roughly 25% of the field, leaving far more room than our group could possibly have used. I doubt our wild shots would even come near their practice. But we had to play on a nearby drainage field with a 3% grade. Around here, youth soccer really hates adult soccer, but I can't understand why.

Today, our pickup game arrived at Arbolado field, and a girls soccer camp was underway in the back corner. Again, they had about 25% of the field marked out with cones. Tons of little girls and medium girls looked like they were having a total blast. That's when I saw the big Tiffany Roberts Soccer banner.

We set up our game on the far side of the field and played for about 40 minutes. Then, two of the camp officials came over and... politely asked us to move to a different part of the field because they needed the two goals nearby. They apologized and were sweet as can be, recognizing that (a) we were not interfering with them and (b) we were enjoying the world's greatest sport. Rather than treat us as enemies and interlopers (I'm sure they had the entire field reserved and totally had the right to boot us off), they treated us as friends.

We played and finished our game without any problems (one of the guys twisted his ankle), and we were gone forty minutes later. I just looked up the camp online, and it's four full days for $350. Six hours a day (that's 24 hours for those of you keeping score at home), and the girls got a ball, a tee shirt, and a water bottle. That works out to about $13 an hour, which is reasonable compared to any other activity. Compare to piano lessons at $40 an hour, or tennis at $30 an hour. And the girls looked like they were having a blast.

So I'm the newest fan of Tiffany Roberts. She seems like she simply loves the game and wants others to love it, too, and sharing fields is not a problem for her. Unlike local youth coaches who seem to think that adults with soccer balls are worse than vampire zombie pirates or something.

July 16, 2007

Ten on Tuesday: 10 favorite childhood movies


10 favorite movies from my childhood
I suspect there will be a lot of overlap across everyone's lists this time. Though I suppose a blogger who considers their childhood to be the 50s will have a different universe to choose from. Anyway, here are mine. My childhood ranged from about 1969 to 1982, I'd say. Before that, I was too young to notice. After that, I got too cool for my own good. These are in no particular order, by the way.

  1. Mary Poppins. Best. Movie. Ever. I fell in love with Julie Andrews as a kid... mostly for Sound of Music, but also for Mary Poppins. What little boy wouldn't fall in love with her? Hell, if she were still that same young woman, I'd dump my wife and shack up with Julie in a heartbeat. (Guess who doesn't read my blog regularly?) Oh, it's a jolly holiday with Mary... And don't let the door hit you on the way out, dearie.

  2. Tron. This movie rocked for a computer crazy geekhead juvenile male. I netflixed this for my boys about six months ago, and not only did they love it, but it still rocked. It's a good story, and they did well with mediocre special effects. I love that Bit just says yes or no...

  3. Star Wars. Way before Jar-Jar Binks, George Lucas had us flying along on a rip-roaring saga complete with a stupid-haired princess and a young Harrison Ford. And the strange idea of laser swords. The vision in that movie at that time was simply awesome, and even though it's my kids' least favorite Star Wars episode, it remains my favorite. I suggest a new strategy, R2... let the wookie win.

  4. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. You're sleek as a thoroughbred, your seats are a featherbed... When I was about eight years old, I watched this by myself one night. My mom had moved away three years earlier, and I missed her terribly. I love this movie, but that night it made me very sad.

  5. Spaghetti Westerns. Pretty much any Clint Eastwood spaghetti western that played on the Four O'Clock Movie on channel 36. I forget the call letters, but this independent local station had probably the first virtual interactive online video game in "TV Pow!" They had two kids call in. Each had a screen of a simple version of Space Invaders, and each kid would yell "pow!" into their phone. This would allegedly cause their spaceship to shoot, and whoever scored the most points won some prize. It was totally hokey, but hell, it was the era of Atari 2600.

  6. Monty Python and the Holy Grail. None shall pass! Oh, how many hours I spent with this one. My geeky friends and I even performed the witch trial during our high school's "Non-Talent Talent Show." So... if she weighs the same as a duck... she's made of wood!

  7. The Pink Panther Strikes Again. Who can forget the German assassin lady with the enormous boobs and the poisoned spikes that come popping out of them? And the way Clouseau's pretzel saves him and gets stuck. Or the laughing gas scene. Or the that is not my dog innkeeper.

  8. Logan's Run. There is no sanctuary! I must have watched this one on TV a hundred times, and if it came on tonight I'd watch it again. As cheesy and predictable as it is, I still love it.

  9. The Blues Brothers. Are you the police? No ma'am, we're musicians. Even though we weren't musicians, that became our catch phrase for at least a year in high school. This movie has hands down the best car chase scene in film. Particularly the part when the Illinois Nazis (I hate Illinois Nazis) drive off the partial bridge and end up a mile above the city. Our other catch phrase was, of course, We're on a mission from God (pronounced gad).

  10. The Muppet Movie. Myth! Myth! Yeth? "Lost? Have you tried Hare Krishna?" Should I be embarrassed to admit this was one of my favorite movies of all time? I loved the Muppets and watched the show every chance I got. It was a sad week when I had to miss it.

Honorable mention goes to any and all James Bond movies.

It's 106 miles to Chicago, we got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it's dark, and we're wearing sunglasses.
Hit it.

July 13, 2007

Fiction Friday: Gerry's life changes

This week's theme: Pick one item from each column. Roughly sketch out a short scene that includes the character you selected and the situation you selected. The script generated the following for me: A lady with 30 cats is fired in a very public way and tears up a plane ticket. This scene involves Gerund Maplethorpe, a.k.a. Gerry, who was my character sketch in last week's [Fiction]Friday.

If it was the fourteenth, it would be the red cat with blue spots today. Gerry hefted the bag with his dinner--a frozen fettuccine Alfredo, a pack of Oreos, and a six of Sam's summer ale--and pushed the store's squeaky screen door open. The August evening wafted warm flower smells at him from the corner florist just shutting up for the night. Was it eight o'clock already?

He turned left and let the door slap shut behind him. The shopkeeper, an old Chinese lady with a stooped and vaguely smelly husband, hated the clap of her rickety door on the peeling frame, but to Gerry it was the sound of childhood summer. He couldn't help but grin as he walked away and listened for the grind of the door's spring as she pushed it open to glare at his back.

Instead, the surprising rumble of a motorcycle shook the quiet Queen Anne street. Gerry had seen plenty of Harleys around Seattle, but up here the street seemed to have nothing but Subarus, Jettas, and Camrys. He stopped to look, keenly aware that any outside observer would perceive him as the snobbish elitist suburbanite in khakis tsk-tsking the bad boy on the bike. Really, though, he just wanted to get a look at the guy who slept over at the goth yuppie chick's house a couple nights a week.

As he expected. Thick arms, heavily tattooed, mostly black ink. Black beanie helmet--why bikers thought that looked good, Gerry hadn't figured out yet. Long, black hair creased with gray and kinked out from the wind. His jeans looked new, but his black tank top had seen better days. Maybe better decades. The bike pulled up in front of the florist, and the guy slid off and stomped over and grabbed a bundle of red roses. He looked all around--Gerry figured he didn't want his biker buddies seeing this--and caught Gerry's eye for just a moment. Gerry turned and continued strolling down the street, trying not to walk too fast or too slow.

He took inventory of the neighborhood, counting the new scratches in Mr. Walsh's car, counting the uncollected newspapers at that yellow house, seeing that Bill still hadn't taken in his garbage can from last Thursday. Almost at the end of the block, he paused and looked across the street. Not the red one with blue spots. Gerry checked his watch--yup, the fourteenth. Goth Yuppie Chick always put out the red cat with blue spots on the fourteenth, but today her porch bench was empty.

Not in three years of walking past her house had Gerry seen that bench without one of her thirty stuffed toy cats on it. She hadn't moved out--her Jetta was parked neatly in the driveway and her front light was on. But was something wrong? Gerry found himself frowning, and he wondered why he might care about this woman he'd never met. Sure, she was cute in a dangerous non-khaki sort of way, but...

The Harley rumbled past him into the driveway and stopped with one wheel on the smooth, spotless lawn. Gerry knew he should turn and walk away, go home and shut himself in like every night in the four years since college. As the biker slid off his bike once more, the bundle of roses clenched in his paw, the door of the house swung open with a sudden crash, knocking over the wooden bench where that red cat with blue spots should have been.

The smell of exhaust and gasoline mixed with the odor of some sweet flower nearby, and Gerry stood rooted to the sidewalk, the day's warmth rising from the pavement under him. The goth yuppie chick stormed down from her porch, her thick, black boots clunking hard on each wooden step. Her airy blond hair billowed up as she charged at the biker, who now held out the roses more like a shield than a gift.

"Chris--" the biker sounded lost, pleading, hopeful.

"Don't," growled the goth yuppie chick as she stopped dead right in front of the roses, "Call. Me. That."

"Come on, baby, you know I'm only teasing."

"Yeah, well, don't."

"OK, OK. Jesus, Crystal, what, you on the rag or something?"

"Yeah, brilliant. Witty, Ricardo, always real funny." She stood staring at him, oblivious to anything else. If it had been a cold night, Gerry thought maybe she'd be snorting steam like you see horses do sometimes. Not that she looked horsey. Not at all. Her blond hair had one long, deep purple streak down one side, and it framed her beautiful face and complemented her dark eye liner in a way that was more than sexy. She had smooth skin, pale but not unhealthy, and a glint in her petite nose looked like a diamond stud. Gerry found himself transfixed.

"Well, whatever. Here, these are for you, baby." Ricardo said it as if he were handing over the most valuable thing in the world and he was the most generous guy in the world.

"Fuck you." Crystal held up a couple of pieces of paper, but Gerry couldn't see what they were. "And who are these for? No, wait. Let me read them." Crystal dramatically whipped the papers under Ricardo's nose and held them up in the fading evening light. "Ricardo Montez. Southwest Airlines to Las Vegas, Thursday August fifteenth." She paused and gave him a piercing , momentary look. "Very nice. Seating group A. And the other one: Sheri Lopez... huh, the same flight. And look, both paid for by Ricardo Montez."

"Look, baby--"

"Fuck you, Ricardo. I saw the hotel reservation, too. You really should hide this shit better. I needed a pen. I looked in your desk drawer. Duh."

"Come on, baby, Sheri's just... you know. She means nothing. I love you. I think--hey, let's get married. I mean, it's been four years, right?"

Gerry watched the expression on Crystal's face go from anger to incredulity to disgust to outright rage.

Ricardo continued. Unwisely, Gerry thought. "Four years today. That's why I got you these." He held out the roses again. "I thought hey, roses, romantic dinner, maybe pop the question finally."

Crystal hissed, "Then fly off to Vegas the next day with the new artist." She held up the papers and tore them slowly end to end, side to side, five times, six times, then let the pieces flutter to the grass. "That's what I think of your marriage proposal, you dick." Then, slowly, she took the roses from his hand and dropped them to the driveway. One big boot came down on them hard, grinding them into the pavement. "That's what I think of our relationship."

Then, quickly, more quickly than Gerry realized, Crystal had pulled something from her back pocket, slipped around Ricardo, and was pouring something all over his motorcycle. "And this," she said as she stepped back to look at the motorcycle, "is what I think of you." She put the flask back in her back pocket and pulled something from her front pocket.

In an instant, Gerry realized three things: First, that the smell of gasoline was floating to him, very strong on the evening breeze. Second, that the breeze was coming from the direction of the motorcycle. Third, that what Crystal now held in her hand was a disposable cigarette lighter. Apparently, Ricardo realized those things at the same time. As the spark failed to light the flame on the lighter, Ricardo yelled something unintelligible and lunged at Crystal, knocking her hard backwards into the small shrubs bordering her porch. She fell hard, and Gerry worried that she might be hurt. He took a half step forward but stopped. What could he do?

"Crazy bitch," Ricardo said as he stood over her. He turned to his bike and put his helmet back on. "I'll send Johnny over for my stuff next week. You're fucking fired. Don't come into the shop no more." He mounted the bike and rode off up the street.

Gerry waited until the sound of the bike had disappeared entirely. Crystal wasn't moving, slumped in the shrubs. After looking both ways, Gerry crossed the street and paused at the edge of the driveway. Normally he'd just walk on. Normally he wouldn't have stopped to watch that ugly scene in the first place. It was like something from Springer, but right here a few houses away from his own. And real. And now Crystal was sobbing quietly, still lying in the bushes.

Gerry put down his bag and stepped gingerly closer. "Uh..." He winced. What should he say? "Uh... hi, I'm a neighbor of yours..." No reaction. "Hey, are you OK?"

Crystal lifted her head. A streak of crimson now crossed the deep purple in her hair, and Gerry saw it was blood from a new scratch on her forehead. He couldn't tell what was in her mind as she looked at him in the thickening twilight. He took a deep breath and stepped closer, holding out his hand to help her up. "You're bleeding." He pulled her out of the shrubs.

Crystal shrugged. Tears had tracked down her cheeks, collecting dirt from her fall and splotching her face. Gerry wished he had some idea how to tell her she looked entirely beautiful to him in that moment. Her pain, her embarrassment, her vulnerability--they all made her suddenly human, suddenly someone he thought he could have a chance of understanding. Crystal stood, looking down at the crushed roses with an emptiness in her eyes.

Without really knowing why he did it, Gerry knelt and picked up the flask and the lighter. He poured the last bit of gasoline from the flask onto the roses and lit it, watching the low flame spread over their red and green. He stood up and stepped back next to Crystal to watch the roses curl and shrivel, and he was only partly surprised when Crystal slipped her hand into his.

July 11, 2007

Thursday Thirteen (#14): Pearls of Wisdom

My younger son moved on from first grade to second grade this year. At the end of the year, the teacher (whom we loved dearly) sent home a number of pieces of wisdom from the kids. She gave them the first part of a commonly known proverb and asked them to finish it. Here are the sometimes funny, sometimes deep, sometimes both results:
  1. It's always darkest before... I'm in trouble.
  2. Never underestimate the power of... the dark side.
  3. Strike while the... bug is close.
  4. Don't bite the hand... that has not been washed.
  5. A miss is as good as a... Mr.
  6. You can't teach an old dog new... words.
  7. Happy is the bride who... gets the most presents.
  8. A penny saved is... still only one cent.
  9. If at first you don't succeed... you won't go on to second grade.
  10. Better late than... really, really, really late.
  11. Two's company, three's... a family.
  12. No news is... bad because no one knows the weather.
  13. The pen is mightier than... the pencil.

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!
The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

July 10, 2007

Ten on Tuesday: 10 of my favorite things


10 favorite things
This week it's photos representing favorite things. Here we go!

  1. Family! Here is most of them. See if you can guess which one I am.

    and of course my boyz
  2. Friends

  3. Nice scenery

    Hey, how'd that get in there? I meant mountains!

  4. This never gets old! (Cal football)
  5. Our annual camping trip with all the other families

  6. Writing!

  7. Humor, especially irony.

  8. Soccer!
  9. Mmmm, beer.

  10. Travel, especially to historic places.

July 9, 2007

Writing photo contest

This is my entry into the Write Stuff Writing Photo Contest.

Here is me hard at work avoiding actual writing by posting a comment on Nathan Bransford's blog. The subject was POV: first or third? (How come everyone always forgets second? It's like the forgotten middle child.) Here is my comment, in its entirety:
John said, "I think first person is easier to write... but it's really difficult to write first person well-- to pull it off, harder I think than third." And SSaS said, "Surprising how much bad writing I've found in my first person work. It hides many ills."

I agree entirely. Lazy writing manifests differently, but I think first person hides it with more cunning. E.g., in first person it can be more difficult to show rather than tell. When we're angry, we think to ourselves, "That guy made me mad." And it seems natural to write what we'd think. Adding swear words ("that @#$! guy") may be more realistic here, but it dilutes the telling even more. Better would be something like, "I wished I'd had Gramps' old hand grenade to lob into that guy's car."

Laziness is laziness, and it can happen in any POV, but "The bad driver made John angry" is much easier to highlight than "Oh, I was so mad." (Or so say I. YMMV.)

Regarding Huck Finn: A perfect example of masterful first person. Not only does it have the strong dialect, but it's got incredible voice. Well, what do you think? --that muleheaded old fool wouldn't give in then! Indeed he wouldn't. Said it warn't no fair test.... And so he warmed up and went warbling and warbling right along til he was actuly beginning to believe what he was saying....

Third person POV would have to have a strongly voiced, independent narrator to accomplish that kind of impact. Which, of course, is exactly what Nathan is talking about. Here we get Huck's perspective on the exchange rather than an outside observer's perspective, complete with his own interpretation of something he doesn't understand.

Which is all academic, though, because it comes down to the way you want your reader to interact (or not) with the story, the characters, and the scenes.

Normally I hate the POV wars (it reminds me so much of the Windows versus OS/2 days!), but this post and the comments made me think in a different way about it. Thanks.
My typical writing spot is in my office where I also do my telecommuting for my Day Job. That's my comfy chair, and I usually wear my hat (sometimes backwards, aren't I a rebel? bet you didn't know I actually have a tattoo, too). When I'm in the city, I write at a cafe near work on a plaza where a lot of people walk by on sunny days.

Unfortunately, my wife has yet to master the subtleties of our cell phone camera. That's why it has the grainy, amateur quality of your typical Sasquatch sighting.

July 6, 2007

Vacation Weekend

On vacation in Avila Beach. Evening on the beach.

Fiction Friday: character sketch

This week's theme: Choose one of the following odd character names and create a character sketch to go along with it. Make it an interesting character because we’re going to use them in a future [Fiction] Friday.

Marmalade Zilch Silence Gerund
Minty Wicked Electron Ism
Broke Hex Yule Eave
Siren Parsley Tart Deal
Ebb Surreal Tepid Dime

Gerund Maplethorpe's greatest gratitude in life is that he is not his sister. Her name is Participle, and although Gerry went through school without anyone really noticing his real name, most people immediately ignored what Participle's parents called her (Tice) and opted for either Party or Sippy. Gerry's second greatest gratitude in life is that no one has figured out they could call him "Undie".

Gerry and Party were born in the early 1980s to two Yale professors who thought names needed to be more creative. They liked the trend of children being named Nike and Adidas; it tickled their overdeveloped sense of irony. Gerund was born in 1982 and had a case of hiccups for nine days straight. Party was born in 1982 as well, just 10 months later, and their parents were divorced a mere sixteen months after that.

Now 25 years old, Gerry is working as a technical sales rep for a small contractor that makes electronic sensors specifically designed for the aerospace industry, with particular emphasis on warplanes. He has not spoken to his father in three years, since graduating from San Diego State in engineering. Although clever and always near the top of his class, Gerry hates being in the limelight at all. He was the only kid in his school in 20 years to score perfect on the college entrance exam. But he made sure to get a D in gym in senior year so he wouldn't be one of the top two in GPA and have to give a speech at graduation. He chose San Diego State because it was the farthest away he could go and still be in mainland US.

Gerry is just five foot six inches with skin that tans easily and an athletic frame. Girls often notice his dark eyes first--not for their beauty but for the lack of any apparent emotion or feeling in them. Gerry hangs back from crowds and tends to observe. People who don't know him are creeped out and often leave with the first impression that he has the potential to become a true psychopath. They're wrong, of course. Gerry is actually incredibly kind and generous in his soul. What those people see is his internal struggle not to be his father. He can feel it, every day, every moment, creeping in on him. It's why he chose engineering instead of the more natural English. It's why he chooses to sail on the Sound and hike in the mountains instead of visit museums and go to plays.

Gerry does stay in close contact with Party, who naturally had a fun time through college. Also brilliant, Party stayed closer to home and attended Harvard, and at just 25 she's about to have her first novel published... to the great delight of their literary parents. The novel is titled, of course, "Party Girl," and Gerry hates it. He hates his sister's success, her choice of following their parents' paths, her growing fame. He hates the story in the book and knows she's capable of far better. He hates that she sold herself out to the bubble gum world of chick-lit fluff, opting for popularity over literary quality. He hates that he has such a literary snobbishness and wishes he were more blue collar and down to earth.

Gerry has put so much of himself into not becoming his father that he's forgotten to find out who he is and should become. He really has no dreams, other than the dream of never publishing a literary novel and never becoming an elitist know-it-all prick. But dreaming about not becoming something is not the same as dreaming about becoming something else, so Gerry has mostly ended up not attaching himself to anything. He makes friends and drifts apart. He joins a hiking club and then drops out. He watches two episodes of a TV drama and then forgets about it. He's had three girlfriends but now doesn't bother to ask anyone out because they never stick around.

Gerund's life is stalled, and he's dropped the key down a sewer grate. He thinks he might go to Alaska and see whether crab fishing is as appealing as it looks on the Discovery Channel. He hates himself for recognizing the irony in his life: his sister is named Participle, but he's the one who's dangling.

winner, winner, winner!

~willow~ has tagged me with the Thinking Blogger Award. Yay! I have been on the sidelines watching the other kids play tag for weeks and wondering if anyone would ever notice me. Then ~willow~ shows up and says I'm it, and I don't feel like a lonely loser any more. Well, not so much anyway.

What is the Thinking Blogger Award, you ask? You didn't ask? Shut up, I'm going to tell you. It's a game of tag where anyone who gets one of these awards is allowed to tag five other blogs by bloggers who appear to think before posting. Or maybe it's five blogs that make you think. Anyway, thinking is involved. So to the five blogs and bloggers below: You're it!

  • Post-Mediocre by J@na
    Although she does not post that much, J@na has such nice turn of phrase and a clever wit that I love to see every post. Especially that last Fiction Friday poem. What a hoot.
  • Write From Karen by Karen
    Karen is the reason I got hooked up with Write Stuff and began reading two of the others on this list.
  • Rough Draft by D.Challener
    One of the Write Stuff writers, D.Challener has a keen eye in critique and a strong voice in fiction.
  • Drawing on Words by Tammi
    Tammi is another Write Stuff weekly writer whose blog I like to check daily.
  • Bending the Twigs by Crimson Wife
    I came upon this blog through Thursday Thirteen and have enjoyed looking at it often. But Crimson Wife's posts make me think too much, so I can't read all of them. I just don't have time.
(By the way, I did not select anyone else I knew had already won the award or who has such a popular blog that everyone I know already knows about it, like Evil Editor or Agent Kristin or Writer Beware. And I didn't include anyone I thought might prefer to be known only to close friends.)

July 3, 2007

Ten on Tuesday: 10 things to do before you die


10 things to do before you die
Does this mean ten things I want to do before I die, or ten things I think you should do before you die? Hmm. Or maybe ten things I need to do before you die? Anyway, I don't typically make lists like this. I prefer to live in the moment and see where life takes me, enjoying the wonder of everything along the way. I mean, a list like this implies that if I were to die tomorrow, I'd have at least ten regrets. I don't like living that way. Anyway, here goes:

  1. Publish a novel.
  2. See Australia and New Zealand.
  3. See the middle of the United States in two parts: First, ride the train and see museums and historic spots in cities I've never been to. Second, drive and camp in national parks all over the country.
  4. Take my boys on a tour of medieval castles and cathedrals and cultural spots in Europe.
  5. Visit the Italy you see in all those movies about people spending lazy summers in country villas surrounded by vineyards.
  6. See Cal win a Rose Bowl.
  7. Own a mountain cabin or house, preferably on a lake, likely in the Sierras or in northern Vermont. Write there. Enjoy hot tea on a quiet winter morning overlooking the lake.
  8. Brew another batch of beer and share it with my friends. (It's been too long since I did!)
  9. Publish a second novel.
  10. Install baseboards in the living room. (My wife is pretty sure this one is not going to happen before I die.)
In no particular order, I guess.

July 2, 2007

it was bound to happen

So you're President of the USA. Because of your atrocious track record, you've become irrelevant for everything but NCAA championship teams visiting the White House for their photo ops. What's left to do? Help your friends. It was, of course, inevitable.

By the way, it's definitely worth repeating with Independence Day coming up fast: 3,583 and counting.

I can't help but wonder how much 3,583 soldiers could have helped the Gulf Coast recovery.