Dog Ear
Life and Art (DOG EAR) PDF Print E-mail
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Wednesday, 09 November 2016 05:35

alking under cloudy pre-dawn skies (Mordor skies) to the train station. Was thinking about what had happened the night before, the breaking of the line, the loss of the field, the fall of our future. Amid these morose thoughts, I noticed a Hillary sign hanging like a defeated frigate's sail in the sweeping lights of passing suburban FUVs.

And it made me think of who I am, what has made me, and the changes before us.

My thoughts went to Winds of War and War and Remembrance which I can still largely remember reading while I was in my teens, some forty years ago. I remember Aaron Jastro ignoring the rise of Fascism in France and Italy, of stalling and pooh-poohing any departure, of dooming himself and Natalie. While details fall away as get older, I still remember feeling that sense of foreboding and dread as society rises to consume those it should serve. This book was so chilling that my little Nazi fixation (the adulation of German organization and drive) was placed on the back shelf of my mind, a thing of childhood, not in keeping with the organized thought and careful deliberation of a thinking man.

Closely related to this, The diary of Anne Frank. Again, here is a young girl demonized by hatreds of a jingoistic movement. In the pages of her doomed diary, we see her clutch at the potential of the life she might have had, a writer's life. And we watch as the routine housebound days pass, until the diary suddenly ends. Frank ends her days withering in a concentration camp, the final solution of a society so blithely able to cast off those it is discomforted by.

Weary of Nazis, I picked up the thought train after crossing a busy boulevard in a city that kills more pedestrians than any other in the United States, where an FUV might strike you, drag you, and leave you crumpled in the darkness (happens every news cycle). On the relative safety of the opposite pavement, I resumed my musings. In this, I remembered The Tale of Two Cities, and also Scaramouche, for the same reason. Here we see, from the ground level, the results of the poor rising in bellowing blind anger, the committees, the rumble of the guillotine, the roar of the crowd. And here we see what happens when societies and bureaucracies become feral, running wild in the streets, snarling and snapping, killing for the lust of it. The heroes in these book are caught up in it, usually presenting forged passes to officials (former stable hands lifted from their mud) who now feel power pump in their veins.

In all these stories, we see the world gone mad. We see the pain and bloodshed of bottled (and stoked) vengeance. We see the terror and pain and termination that comes from a civilization that fuels itself, not on economic regulation and a defended borders, but on the persecution of the citizenry and the passion of the mob.

As readers, we've seen these things. We can see a possible end for toppling order and rule of law.

And that's what makes us aware of the risks, this foreshadowing provided by literature. In books, we are empathetic to the main character. We live in his skin, we feel the damp perspiration before the checkpoint, the dread of discovery. But in movies, it's all action heroes, thrills and scenery and in the end, a witty line as the villain is dispatched. In movies, the medals are ceremoniously handed out, the music swells, the credits roll. There is no aftermath, no fearful accounting. We don't see the results of societal destruction, just a celluliod lie. 

Make America great again? I'm just trying to escape the fates of Nineveh and Berlin.

There is only one out. We must be like mid-book heroes. We must stand tall against the winds of adversity.

>>>IF YOU LIKE HISTORICAL FICTION ABOUT PEOPLE CHANGING THEIR WORLDS FOR THE BETTER, CHECK OUT SOME OF MINE. FOR SALE CHEAP, HERE!<<<

Last Updated on Thursday, 10 November 2016 09:17
 
DNF (DOG EAR) PDF Print E-mail
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Thursday, 03 November 2016 00:00

or all the stuff people say about the wonderful new dynamic publishing model, with all these books out that never would have seen the light of day, I have to say that some of them should have been buried in deep graves in the woods and forgotten.

I won't say which book this was (but those with sharp eyes might spot it sometime) but some coworker raved on it I bought a $3 book on his recommendation. You know, I'm dropping book titles by Stephenson and Wells and even Pratchett, and this guy pushes a off-brand. But sure, why not try it?

This is the second time I've been burned by back-door books like this, stuff that people write, unvetted by any writer group or anyone beyond a friend nosing through it. It was written in (as I would term it) third-person-weak, meaning that we're being told the story from an external POV. And yes, I know that this is the most widely used method of storytelling, but it can be about as exciting as someone reading their laundry list. In this story, a planet blows up. And that's about as much as we are told. Not what happened to the billions on the planet faced with certain extinction. Not the panic, the weeping, the desperate rush for berths on the last ship. Just that the planet went pop and that was that. How can you take something that should provide endless emotional attachment (and description porn) and make it a couple of dull words? Forchristsake, not even a single adjective!

And the hero, who is as good as a saint. We're told that. Over and over we are told that. But never are we shown why he is good. Never an anecdote, an episode, not even dialog which would prove his worth to us. It's more like, "Hey, he's the hero. He's good. No proof needed."

Show, don't tell. That's the damn rule writers live by!

Anyway, I read about 50 pages and found myself dreading going back in - it was so dry and pointless. I didn't care about the characters (frankly, I couldn't tell them apart). I had no idea where the tension had gotten to. There was no curiosity on my part to see where it was going. And thus, after a horrible day at work, I came home, took a look at my Ipad and turned my back on it. No, grabbing a book off the used shelf (Eternity Road, by Jack McDevitt) I was instantly hooked. All I knew from the first few pages was that we were living in a post-apocalypse world along the Mississippi. An explorer had come back from a mission to find a supposed trove of old-world items, and was (strangely) the sole survivor of his party.

Really?

Curious.

Nobody said he was reclusive. Or mysterious. The story just showed me those things in the first few pages. And I wanted to know more. Like what happened to the people on his expedition? Where did they get to? What did they see?

The next day at work, I mentioned to my good friend Kanchan my guilt at tossing the other book away like the tripe it was. And she told me it was a DNF (a "did not finish") which was perfectly fine. Me, I usually fight to make it through a book. Crime and Punishment took off from the moment I almost put it down into something I still carry internally with me today. Who knows when a book might take off?

But really, if you can't stand it, really can't, maybe it's better for you just to jettison it. I did. And now I'm seeing the clues of Eternity Road come together. And I'm loving it!

>>>DON'T YOU DARE PUT DOWN MY BOOK. NOT THAT I THINK YOU WILL. IT'S BRILLIANT! THEY ALL ARE. TRUST ME! FOLLOW THE LINK HERE TO THE GIFT SHOP AND CHECK THEM OUT!<<<

Last Updated on Thursday, 03 November 2016 08:22
 
Effing (DOG EAR) PDF Print E-mail
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Thursday, 27 October 2016 00:00

've mentioned numerous times how reading really opens your life. Suddenly you can start to see the weave of civilization. In your mind, you can live in the banks of the Mississippi in the 1840s, in New York in the roaring twenties, or even in ancient Tyre before the time of Christ (shameless plug - check out the link below).

So today, another factoid entered my head.

No doubt you've heard the word "effing". I'll be you assume that its a recent word, perhaps developed in the last century-turn as a counterbalance against the F-bomb. And why not - the F-bomb is everywhere. Remember being in a restaurant and sitting next to four (presumably) Baldwin Park punkies, with them playing with the word like it was their shiny new toy. It's now used so casually you'll even hear middle-class men in public tossing it back and forth. And, admittedly, after some of my bike-commuting adventures, I've been provoked into using it (actually, I have a very salty vocabulary and need to learn to tone it down).

So I thought that the word "effing" sprang up as a defense against this, an e-cigarette of cussing. If you really wanted to rip off a sharp work, one with the bite of tabasco, well, what word better than the F-bomb? But if you have some sense of decorum, you might grip your smashed thumb and hiss "Effing hammer slipped". Or watch your boss give away your effing promotion. Or even have your effing publisher die (true story). I never recall hearing it before 2000 or so, so I figured it was a laugh-track way of going foul-mouthed.

Wrong.

While reading Hemingway's Across the River and Into the Trees, I came across the line, "But what the effing security is there better than I can give them?" (yeah, I know - a bit of a cluttered sentence). But I blinked at the word - what was that doing in a book written in 1950?

Read a little further and got a second, conclusive sighting - "eff-off". So there it was again. Thus it appeared that that word has been around a lot longer than I assumed. In fact, since it's used casually, perhaps it existed even further back than that. I don't know. I could wiki it, of course, but I'd rather not. Sometimes it's better to leave a bit of the weave unresolved, to look for hints in my later days. Who knows what I'll find.

So, doesn't that just beat effing all?

>>>WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR? BUY ONE OF MY EFFING BOOKS! WHY DO YOU THINK I WRITE THESE ANYWAY?<<<

Last Updated on Sunday, 16 October 2016 12:34
 
To a Certain Degree (DOG EAR) PDF Print E-mail
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Thursday, 20 October 2016 00:00

’m not a loyal radio listener. I’ve got a half-dozen stations on my presets and as soon as a dumb-ass commercial comes on (usually aimed at suburbanites and their standardized needs) I jump. Came out of hyperspace the other day on WPRK (Rollins student radio, 91.1 on your dial) and heard a fascinating interview on the program To a Certain Degree.

I’m sorry, I don’t know who the interviewer or the guest were. I couldn’t find names on any of the station’s site and I’ll only dig so far for acknowledgments. Still, it was interesting.

The guest was talking about finding a site where a woman blogged a daily gratitude, just something in her life she was thankful for. That struck him as dedication, a dedication he wanted part of. So he looked around for something he could commit to, a central support of his life that would make sense and force more from himself than simple consumerism.

He noted that he liked listening to show tunes while he worked. One of those sets was Les Miserables. Oddly, he’d never seen the show, never read the book, knew nothing about it. He just liked the music. And then this quandary of what to center his life on. In this light, he looked into the story and its basis, the Victor Hugo novel. Oddly, it has 365 chapters, a numerologist’s joy as that’s strangely the number of days in a year. And that caught his attention. His decision – even though he wasn’t really a reader, he’d read a chapter a day and write about his observations on Facebook.

By now I was in the parking garage at work but I just sat there with engine-off, radio-on. He continued with his findings about the world of France in the 1800’s, this world he knew nothing about. With some of the chapters, he’d have to research. He looked up Waterloo, the French Revolution, all the factors that went into this book of poverty and pursuit.

And yes, I got that. It’s a reader’s thing, of learning about a place and time so foreign to you, it’s like a race on an alien planet. I felt that way when I started to get curious about the people Alexander vanquished, the poor Phoenicians (two books came from that). And the Egyptians (from Wenamon’s tale, which came up a lot in history books on the Phoenicians). And then there were the Assyrians, who were only known to me before this as coming down like a wolf on the fold. To them, I started researching a follow-up series to my first work, Fire and Bronze. And then there was all the information I got about crows, the naturalism of which was inspired by Watership Down.

So, yes, if you go beyond the covers of Harry Potter, if you sniff around tales set in our world, you’ll learn all manner of things. And this long view can help you across your difficult life. It will make things seem more sensical. It will provide caution in things political or otherwise (I’m thinking about our current electoral conflictions and the descent of Germany). You’ll learn great acts, great loves, great moments. And yes, you’ll see more span of the world than you ever believed possible.

So don’t think stories come from your Roku box. Those are reheated fastfood tales taken from the established tropes of the classics. Go to the source of philosophy, history and the human condition.

Read!

>>>MIGHT I SUGGEST MY OWN BOOKS? TRUST ME, YOU’LL LEARN ALL ABOUT TYRE IN MY TWO TAKES, ONE IN 820 BC, ONE IN 330 BC. HELL, YOU’LL EVEN KNOW WHERE IT’S LOCATED AT, PUTTING YOU IN FRONT OF PRETTY MUCH ANY TYPICAL AMERICAN. GET AN EDGE. GET ONE OF MY BOOKS!<<<

Last Updated on Thursday, 20 October 2016 13:40
 
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