Dog Ear
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Thursday, 17 November 2016 00:00

he election.

Yeah, fuck, the election.

Nothing more depressing than waking up in a world where the efforts and victories of the past eight years are swept away. The same-sex couple down the street? Their marriage is in real danger now. The freelance writer I know at NationalGeo? Her heathcare will likely be ripped away (leaving her with a pre-existing and no insurance). My Muslim friends are concerned; who wouldn’t be in this sea of rising rage.

I mean, fuck.

So that Wednesday was pretty gray for me. On the bus-link to work, the black riders and driver talked about it, very subdued, almost funeral. Yeah, I can see that too. At work, I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do. I had no focus. I don’t want to say that I no longer recognized my own country, but, well, yes, that was pretty much it.

At work, one righty-tightie smirkingly offered me a conciliatory pop-tart. On Facebook, it was either outrage or gloating. No succor there. Then I followed a link down to the New Yorker and read a number of articles by staff writers observing the right’s sweep.

Oh, there were some angry ones, of course. But there were also hopeful ones. And insightful ones. Instead of the social media hash and the office opinions, their comments were true conversations, as comforting as sitting in an Amsterdam coffee shop, looking out at the passing cyclists and chatting about the ramifications of far-away events. Unlike every other positioning dialog washing over us this day, here were a series of thoughtful pieces that could speak to me in the way only written language can. It was comforting. And internal. In the blare of the geopolitical world, it was a quiet refuge of understanding and thought.

Really, they were good pieces – I wish I could link to them but they’ve washed away in the torrent that is Facebook – can’t find them. But that’s the thing. The written word can provoke a rise to action. It can even be the tool of demigods (though, with its more deliberate pace, sound-bites are better suited). But on the positive, it can offer the thinking man a place to reflect, to internalize and digest. And from these pieces I found my own opinions of what I would do and how I would face this new world.

And so, yes, if you are reading this and you are sympathetic, you are not alone. Those who read and think, those who enjoy stores of men standing on principles and fighting injustice, you have a silent yet understanding multitude at your back. We might not be able to effect positive change over the coming years. We might see our progressive efforts and liberal gains pushed back. But there is still a spirit of good and purpose in writing. There is a home there for us.

Tip your head back and stand against the wind!


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.


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.



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!


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.


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?


Last Updated on Sunday, 16 October 2016 12:34

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