Archive for March, 2012


ticket to nowhere

This piece cribbed from today’s AP:

Everett Eahmer, 80, of St. Paul, Minn., said he’s been playing the lottery “since the beginning.”

“If I win, the first thing I’m going to do is buy a (Tim) Tebow football shirt, and I’m going to do the Tebow pose,” said Eahmer, who bought five tickets Thursday. “I’m with him in honoring a higher power.”

The higher power of what? Statistics?

inre: Tim Tebow. Now there’s a guy in dire need of a prayer closet.

This bit from the LA Times, in reference to when the Mega Millions jackpot was a mere $540 million (i.e. early this morning):

By the numbers, you have a 1 in 175,711,536 chance of picking the winning numbers and scoring a record $540 million jackpot.

Put another way: If you buy 50 tickets a week, you will win the jackpot every 68,000 years.

No, I did not buy a ticket.

exit strategy

I’ve decided to delay the submission of my resignation for a few days, possibly even a few weeks. The latest I’ll submit it will the middle of May, which would make the standard two weeks’ notice. Again, the only thing I’m 100% sure of is the fact that I will be resigning before the first day of June.

I’m delaying because I’m concerned about tipping my hand too early. People are jealous, and when they find out someone is leaving they sometimes do things to make the resignee’s life as difficult as it can be before his final exit. This meddling will occasionally result in the short-timer being questioned about comments he’s made, rules he hasn’t followed to the letter, or other jabs the frivolous horde might give in retaliation for a perceived “short timer’s attitude.”

Of course the delay is also not written in stone. I may submit my resignation in the middle of April instead of in May. It all depends on what comes my way within the next two months.

life in the GND

Suffice it to say that the guy working the counter in my personal Good News Department has been lonelier than the loneliest Maytag repairman. His phone doesn’t ring and his monthly visitors number in the single digits. He spends most of his time either napping, staring out the window, or pulling little strings out of his shirt. Lately his biggest thrill is seeing if he can gather all the dust motes floating through the office into one spot so he can make pyramid from them.

Buck up, counter dude! You’re about to be hit with the biggest news your department has seen in the last twenty years. Your humble owner/manager DC5 has finally found his way out of the “I’m worried about finances more than I am my happiness” funk he’s been in for many years, and has decided to resign from his employment with state government as of May 31, 2012. Resignation papers could be turned in as soon as tomorrow evening.

Time to celebrate?

Damn straight, my friends. This is a goooood thing.

 

stooping not so low

An article in one of the local newspapers has sparked my interest in becoming the Next Big Thing—or rather The Next Big Undead Thing.

A couple of independent filmmakers from this area are looking for 150 extras who can convincingly “walk about aimlessly.” The filmmakers are working on an hour-long zombie apocalypse film that follows a group of seven survivors of an out-of-control viral attack. The survivors head to a military evacuation center located in a city park, where they think they’ll be safe. Unfortunately the park is overrun with the undead.

I suppose that’s where the fun begins.

My first thought upon seeing the article was that I would be a shoe-in for one of the undead many. Honestly, have they ever seen me leaving my job in the morning? No makeup necessary, no instruction on how to walk about aimlessly. My gait is stiff enough, my death-like trance already spot-on.

Then again, maybe zombies are beneath me. Why go to that level?

I’ll see your zombies and raise you an entity. Might as well shoot for the top, right?

Or the head, as the case may be.

The entity laughs at virus. It eats the fruit of forbidden trees and spits seeds in groups of six. Its name is Insomnia, and it is relentless. No assembly needed, no instruction required.

Come down and see it sometime.

before John Carter

I read Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Mars (Barsoom) series when I was a teenager. I remember the books being so good that I’d placed them into the category of Personally Most Popular—a category I’d reserved for those rare books that had me so enthralled they would be the last thing I put down at night before I went to sleep and the first thing I picked up in the morning.

I’ve not yet seen the movie John Carter, though I imagine I’ll get to it within the next few weeks. The press seems fairly well divided on whether or not the film has any great value. Some say it’s a flop of truly magnificent proportions; others say it’s nothing if not truly magnificent.

I’ve written a few things about the danger of prejudging a book or movie based on the reviews of others. One cannot say a certain movie or book is crap just because so and so Big Name Reviewer found fault with it. To do so a priori is to invite a charge of unoriginality, not to mention laughable pretension.

So yeah, I’ll see the movie and go from there. In the mean time I’ll be thinking about Steve Axelrod’s salon.com review of John Carter.

I’ll be thinking about it while I take pains to keep Axelrod’s words from influencing me too much…even though I find myself in complete agreement with him, a priori.

It’s tough like that, you know?

Here’s part of Axelrod’s review:

“So what’s the moral of the story? It should be a sobering one to studio heads and film financiers, but a curiously heartening one for the average writer, pecking away at his computer in the small hours, after work. Because the simple astonishing fact is that one failed pencil sharpener salesman with a rickety manual typewriter and a ream of onion skin paper made a product infinitely more entertaining and satisfying, relevant and riveting than an army of journeymen with hundreds of million dollars to spend managed to do.

The result: in my mind the hurtling moons of Barsoom will always mean escape and freedom and adventure.

In the movie, the moons don’t even move.

I think that says it all.”

clarity

clarity

noun

  1. clearness or lucidity as to perception or understanding; freedom from indistinctness or ambiguity.
  2. the state or quality of being clear or transparent to the eye; pellucidity: the clarity of pure water.

(Dictionary.com)

“Clarity, clarity, clarity. When you become hopelessly mired in a sentence, it is best to start fresh; do not try to fight your way through against the terrible odds of syntax.  Usually what is wrong is that the construction has become too involved at some point; the sentence needs to be broken apart and replaced by two or more shorter sentences.”

(Strunk & White, The Elements of Style, Macmillan, 1979)

Syntax, they said. SYNtax.

I know that sounds like some charge the government just placed on the best little whorehouse in Salt Lake City. But it isn’t. Syntax is the grammatical arrangement of words. There is a marked difference between correct and incorrect syntax. Here’s an example of the former:

“Muddiness is not merely a disturber of prose, it is also a destroyer of life, of hope:  death on the highway caused by a badly worded road sign, heartbreak among lovers caused by a misplaced phrase in a well-intentioned letter, anguish of traveler expecting to be met at a railroad station and not being met because of a slipshod telegram.”

(Strunk & White, The Elements of Style)

Compare that to this pile of goo:

“Life is harder than we can imagine, and sometimes our imagination gets in the way of our ability to have a good time and to do some good in the world. But we can always bring ourselves back to the center by remembering that the center of us is where we came from. The center is where our imagination was born, and from there we must return so we can see the good that we must do, even if that good is somewhere other than where we should be.”

(DCV, Shit I’ve seen “Writers” Do, Carnal House, 2012)

I’d say that paragraph’s muddier than mud itself.  Of course I wrote it that way to prove my point. For practice, one might segregate various parts of the paragraph and then reassemble those parts word by word. One could then put the reassembled parts together with other corrected parts, with the goal being a coherent, syntactically correct whole.

 

 

Yesterday I was thinking that the pleasure I get from selling one paperback book is significantly higher than the pleasure I get from the entire paycheck I earn at my other job. To say that I’m in the wrong kind of regular work is to utter the grand understatement of the millennia.

Today I had my studded tires taken off and my regular tires put back on. I refused to sit in the tire store’s lobby while I waited for them to get to my vehicle (only so much Crocodile Dundee I can watch). So I went for a walk instead. While walking I was thinking of the old joke about the guy who was having trouble losing weight. Apparently the guy had tried jogging but kept running into restaurants (bah-dump-bump). My thing is that I try to save money but keep running (or walking) into bookstores and thrifts. I hit two of those stores today and would’ve been to more if I’d had more energy.

Give me your tired, your poor, your Lurking Fear and Other Stories. Give me your sea-washed sunset gates, your Tales from the Crypt and your Gentleman Junkie. Give me the wretched refuse of your teeming shore, your Lust is a Woman and just about anything else by Charles Williford.

Follow me through the golden door of the Inner-Inner Sanctum. Lift your lamp…yes, that’s it. And now to read…

 

 

M is for Memory

Today I walked into one of my favorite bookstores carrying a sack full of books that I want to use for trade credit. At the counter was a young lady who was asking the store owner about a book she was looking for. She was telling the owner that the book was the second part of a three book series. The lady then told the owner that the first book was so good that she absolutely had to have the other two or else she’d die.

The owner was telling the lady that he didn’t have the book in stock, and that he couldn’t order it for her because it was out of print.

Young lady turned to me and my bag of books and asked, “Do you know ‘V is for Vermschwiller’”?

I had no idea what the hell that was. At first I thought it might have been something by Sue Grafton, who’d written all the alphabet books—“A is for Alibi,” “B is for Burglar,” “C is for Corpse,” and so on.

“Who wrote the book?” I asked.

Of course she had no idea. I thought this odd, considering she’d already said she would willingly (and most melodramatically) expire for a chance to have the remaining books in the series. Had she been so enamored by the story that she’d never noticed the author?

The owner mumbled something about the book being written by “V” somebody.” I thought that odd as well. Didn’t he just look it up?

Ah, memory. You are but the itch of an amputated leg.

Interesting story on MSN about a lady who was busted for public comments she’d made about avoiding jury duty.  She’d been dressing up as a crazy person and doing other things that would make a judge think she was unfit to serve on a jury. Unfortunately the woman showed further bad judgment by revealing her scam on public radio, where it was overheard by the very judge who’d just dismissed her from duty. Now the woman’s facing another kind of jury, i.e. PERjury, in two counts.

I once knew a guy who bragged about throwing away his jury duty notices. “I get those notices all the time,” he’d say, “they go straight into the trash.”

Good citizen that I am (cough), I should’ve turned him in. I didn’t like him anyway, the big braggart. But I didn’t turn him in, and neither did anyone else. We couldn’t, in fact, for within a short time Mr. Bigmouth had experienced the rather unfortunate occurrence of finis, i.e. finality of person, id est quietus, that is, death. Fell over in the shower, he did. Finito.

Talk about serving it cold.

I’m sure I’ll get another jury duty notice by early next year. I won’t throw the notice away or pretend (as many do) that it was lost in the mail. I’ll put in my usual year’s worth of extensions, which, if granted, will keep me out until early 2014. And then I’ll go, kicking stones and grumbling all the way.

Grace & James

The following is part of a letter that novelist Henry James (1843-1916) wrote to his friend and fellow writer Grace Norton in 1883. Grace was struggling with a deep depression following the loss of a family member. She had written to James with hope that he might provide her with a sense of direction.

 

Sorrow comes in great waves—no one can know that better than you—but it rolls over us, and though it may almost smother us it leaves us on the spot and we know that if it is strong we are stronger, inasmuch as it passes and we remain. It wears us, uses us, but we wear it and use it in return; and it is blind, whereas we after a manner see. My dear Grace, you are passing through a darkness in which I myself in my ignorance see nothing but that you have been made wretchedly ill by it; but it is only a darkness, it is not an end, or the end. Don’t think, don’t feel, any more than you can help, don’t conclude or decide—don’t do anything but wait. Everything will pass, and serenity and accepted mysteries and disillusionments, and the tenderness of a few good people, and new opportunities and ever so much of life, in a word, will remain. You will do all sorts of things yet, and I will help you. The only thing is not to melt in the meanwhile. I insist upon the necessity of a sort of mechanical condensation—so that however fast the horse may run away there will, when he pulls up, be a somewhat agitated but perfectly identical G. N. left in the saddle. Try not to be ill—that is all; for in that there is a future. You are marked out for success, and you must not fail.

Ever your faithful servant,

Henry James.

 

James is perfectly and eloquently correct. Tenderness and opportunity always remain for those of us who don’t melt in the face of adversity. All may be dark, but the darkness is not a final darkness; nor is the wave so heavy and so powerful that, once it has passed over us, we cannot stand and make our way to shore.

Seeking a Waterman since 2010