Inspiration, Demarcation, and Respiration fe di Nation

Screen Shot 2015-03-23 at 10.09.56 PMSo, I was sitting here, doing what I normally do this time at night, which is to miss the Bess to my Porgy, when WordPress dropped me the badge above. Now, normally, we don’ need no stinkin’ batches around here, but this one is a inconspicuous but important demarcation point for me. Eight years on WordPress, today.

It’s not the amount of time I’ve been a writer, nor does it mark how long I’ve blogged. (A very few know I actually had my first blog on Blogger in September 2005.) But 23 March 2007 is when I decided to take myself seriously as a writer and photographer. I created a blog, which I’ve long-since deleted, filled with rants, poems, laughs, and other bits of my psyche that flaked off like dehydrated skin. Eight years.

Other than wondering why I’m not much better at it by now (I start and stop, that’s why), my initial reaction is that perhaps that’s long enough time spent in shadows. Maybe it’s time I came Full Circle and make this place my own.

I call this blog This Blog Intentionally Blank for a reason. I drop things here, but I almost never showed up. The people who know me in real life will attest–while I occasionally blow through here, mostly I whisper. In the world, I am far more tempest than zephyr. I anguish; I rage; I vent; I love. I stopped selling my books not because I was unsuccessful, but because I have NEVER believed perfection to be an invalid goal.

And I won’t get there, I know, but that’s not the point.

The most profound bad poem ever written said it best. “Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage, against the dying of the light.” But I know y’all don’t hear me any more than you heard Dylan Thomas. I know because I’ve never heard a single person read that poem correctly. It’s not a eulogy. It isn’t meant for quiet sobs or gentle whispers. New Age music doesn’t blow out of some bagpiper’s ass while it’s being read. The poem is Fucking Angry. RAGE! RAGE against the dying of the light!

I don’t know whether I was given one of those new, fluorescent bulbs that will still be burning when our sun goes supernova, or if I’m an old-school incandescent meant to burn out with the next equinox. But I do know this: I won’t be going gentle into any more motherfucken nights. Rage, rage against 8 years spent in semi-darkness.

In the interim, in the real world, I wrote 100 or so poems, enough for a book if I wanted to produce one. I took over 40,000 frames with 8 cameras. I wrote 6 novels and a short story collection. And I made it to 30 years with the same company in my day job. But other than with my Girl, I’ve mostly kept all the vicissitudes hidden. I’m a fucking alpha Leo male. We ain’t supposed to do hidden. Hidden is for little cheetahs that think they’re lions.

So, eight years in, I’m no longer going gentle a goddamned place. And if you don’t like tempests, you might want to buckle up or unfollow. It may be occasionally angry up in this bitch. And I’m not talking about just writing. There’s a whole world out there, and it’s time we met.

About damn time, too.

Grammar Minute: Gerunds and Possessives

I haven’t done one of my Grammar Minute posts in a while, or any other post, frankly, since I’ve taken a loooonnggg sabbatical from writing. However, in looking at my blog statistics, it turns out my grammar posts get the most consistent hits, next to people wanting a comprehensive list of the best writers in the English language.

This one, hopefully, will be short and understandable. It’s on the proper structure of a Gerund phrase. No, Gerund is not that high-top fade kid from Hey Arnold!

arnold_gerald_handshake
Arnold and his best friend, Gerund … er, Gerald.

 

First of all, exactly what is a gerund? A gerund is a noun made from a verb by adding “-ing.” The gerund form of the verb “read” is “reading.” Every gerund ends in “ing.” You’d think that would make them easy to spot, but not really. See, all present participles end in ing too. So, what’s the difference? A gerund is used as a noun and not a verb. You can use a gerund as the subject, the complement, or the object of a sentence.

For instance: “I am reading this sentence.” Here, reading is a verb, in the present participle form.

Contrast that with, “I am attending Bob’s reading of his poetry.” Here, reading acts as a noun, and is a gerund.

Here’s a tougher example. “Eating this pizza is awesome.” Here, the gerund is the verb eating, referring to the noun, pizza. However, the entire clause eating this pizza is used as a noun, the subject of the verb is.

I won’t go more into defining gerunds, as there are other sources you can look up. Instead, I want to focus on using gerunds with possessives, especially possessive pronouns. Given gerunds themselves serve as nouns, when preceded by a noun, which refers to or describes the gerund, the noun should be in the possessive form.

Huh?

Let me say it simpler. Gerunds are preceded by possessives.

For example: “Bob wants you to come see his reading of his poetry.”

In the first sentence, his refers to Bob’s reading. Contrast that with “Bob wants you to come see him reading his poetry.” Here, reading is a present participle, not a gerund, and the subject is him. Remember, in the first sentence, the subject is “his reading.” In the second, it’s “him.”

How about, “I can’t stand to see his going on and on about his girlfriend.” Again, the subject is “his going on and on,” which, if you think about it, is the thing that annoys the speaker. “I can’t stand to see him going on and on about his girlfriend” will sound correct in casual speech, but is grammatically wrong.

As writers, consider using the correct gerund form in formal language and saving the incorrect form for dialog. (Not many people know to use gerunds correctly.)

Here’s a great little closing example from Diana Hacker’s The Bedford Handbook.

In which sentence does the teacher dislike the child?

The teacher dislikes the child whispering to his classmate.

The teacher dislikes the child’s whispering to his classmate.

If you chose the first sentence, you are right. This sentence emphasizes the child, whereas the other one stresses the whispering. In the second sentence, the possessive form child’s signals that whispering is a gerund, a verb form used as a noun. The writer of this sentence is following a traditional grammar rule: For subjects of gerunds, use possessive nouns or pronouns.

You should be aware of gerunds, but not be rigid about their use. Some experts believe it’s going the way of whom, and has outlived its usefulness. In real life, there are time when the proper grammatical structure, using possessives, will sound awkward. In those instances, I advocate writing/stating what sounds best to your ears. As Maria (linguist that she is) always teaches me, language is dynamic and you, the user, get to determine the rules.

Oh well, not so short.

Lucy (2014) in the Sky with F***ING BRAIN DAMAGE!

This will be a short post (rant). I was flying to the UK in either December or February, when I was met by a promising movie, Lucy (2014) starring the great wooden cigar-store Indian actress Scarlett Johansson. I was a bit excited, as it promised to be Sci-fi, looked bad, and I’d heard nothing of it. Sadly, I couldn’t enjoy the biting cynicism of superiority that usually marks my watching poorly written Sci-fi. In fact, despite having Morgan Freeman playing Easy Reader a leading scientist on brain science, the movie crashed for me in the opening minutes. It was the premise, you see.

For Lucy, the entire movie revolved around the “FACT” that humans use only 10% of our brains. What would happen, it speculates, if we actually used 100%? What would that do to our dear, sweet mannequin Lucy?

Well, she’d not be as dumb as monkey shit, for one thing. Perhaps no one would be hired full time to scrape the drool from her face and change her diapers. Maybe she might not even die inside the freaking womb!

HUMANS USE 100% OF OUR BRAINS! That’s why your damned head is so big. If you only needed 10%, you’d have 10% of a head.

 

Inefficient Design
Inefficient Design

For fuck’s sake, people, if you’re gonna write a goddamned science fiction movie, open a bloody science book! I know, I know, we call it science fiction, so it shouldn’t have to exactly true. I get that, except Science Fiction means “fictionalized science.” It doesn’t mean “dumb as monkey balls.” If you want to write movies based on a complete lack of science knowledge, that would be called “Non-Science Fiction” (or maybe “Monkey Balls Fiction”).

I could get past Freeman doing bad movies for money. I happen to have a long-term relationship with money myself. Get yours, my brother! But damn, hearing him do these lines with a straight face was akin to seeing him play God in Bruce Almighty if he’d done so speaking in tongues while wearing Moose Antlers – nothing he said made any sense, so why even bother?

Not only is the concept of the 10% of brain bogus, no one with any scientific knowledge can even figure out what dumbass started the lie in the first place. Here’s a quote from Eric Chudler, Phd., on the faculty of the University of Washington:

“So next time you hear someone say that they only use 10% of their brain, you can set them straight. Tell them: ‘We use 100% of our brains.’”

See? Science isn’t hard.

Dr. Chudler sites these further sources in case his being way the hell more educated than you isn’t enough to bow your tiny brain into submission.

  1. Ten Percent and Counting – BrainConnection.com
  2. The Ten-Percent Myth from the Skeptical Inquirer
  3. The Ten-Percent Myth
  4. Do People Use 10 Percent of Their Brains? – Scientific American
  5. Humans use 100 percent of their brains–despite the popular myth – Ask a Scientist
  6. Higbee, K.L. and Clay, S.L., College students’ beliefs in the ten-percent myth, Journal of Psychology, 132:469-476, 1998.
  7. B.L. Beyerstein, Whence Cometh the Myth that We Only Use 10% of Our Brains? in Mind Myths. Exploring Popular Assumptions about the Mind and Brain edited by S. Della Sala, Chichester: John Wiley and Sons, pages 3-24, 1999. This chapter is required reading for anyone who wants more information on the 10% myth.

If you’re going to write science fiction, do it the right way—avoid monkey balls. If you quote the 10% thing again, however, I will find you and scoop out 90% of your head pudding. Let’s see if you can still formulate a coherent sentence to tell the cops.

Oh, and another thing, WE DO NOT LOSE 90% of heat through our HEADS EITHER!! Heads are little things. You lose about 10% or less of heat (maybe a bit more if 90% of your brain has already been scooped out).

And Scarlett Johansson can’t act. Just saying.

Love, Bill.

 

Wordaventing

Charlie’s longboat pitched and yawed, rolled port and starboard, rose and fell, while the rest of the lagoon stood as serene as a glass sculpture. I wish Robin would sit still just this once. Knowing he could no more control his best friend’s actions than he could the weather, he focused his attention away from the girl’s insane dancing and to the vista before them. Long, tree-born shadows stretched across the broad lake, interspersed by bright stars of sunlight that danced through their leaves. Beyond the shoreline, a long arc of snow-capped mountains scraped the underbellies of clouds until they surrendered, fell as fog, and began to obscure the mountains’ peaks.

The mountains must not want to be here either.

The springtime trees that dotted the mountainsides were populated with the bright lavender of new foliage. The air was thick and humid, though not unpleasant. It was nearing dusk and the waning sunlight painted the sky a muted pink that was reflected in the mirror-like lake. Away from the westward sky, the landscape had already changed to midnight purple with thick fog roiling down the mountains and drifting over the treetops. It gave the lagoon an odd duality, with half the countryside brightly cheery and half dark and ominous.

Charlie sat in the boat facing the dark half. Robin, by contrast, was standing, dancing in a frantic circle, her head tilted toward her lovely pink sky. She was tall and lean, already five foot seven at age fourteen, with her blossoming body hinting at the woman she would become. Thirteen-year-old Charlie barely watched her, though she fascinated him.

“You’re all gloominating my dream, Dimple Boy,” she said, barely pausing to look at him. “Cheer up,”

“That’s not a word,” Charlie said. “You’re always making up words.”

“Wordaventing is what we poets do,” she said. She punctuated her statement with a pirouette, then sat facing him. “I’m here because you asked me to help you use your imagination. Now you’re complaining that I’m using mine.”

“I-I wasn’t complaining, just …”

“Envious?”

Charlie looked up at Robin and was surprised to see she was smiling at him. He had never known her to make fun of anything that troubled him, which meant either she could not tell how much this bugged him, or … “You’re about to say something you think is brilliant, right?” he asked.

Her grin broadened, and she poked him in the shoulder. “Quit reading my eyes, that’s cheating,” she said.

“I wasn’t. It’s too dark out here. They just look gray.”

“Well, it wouldn’t be dark if you’d cheer up.”

Charlie looked around, noticing once again the fog seemed to thicken as his mood darkened. “I can’t help it. I hate writing stupid poems.”

Robin grinned wide enough that Charlie was tempted to cup his hands, in case all her teeth sprang from her mouth. He hoped her braces would not cut his hands.

“That’s my idea,” she said. “I want you to close your eyes and just make up a word. Then we’ll just let the dream decide what the word means.”

“What? What’ll that do?”

“De-gloominate the place, hopefully. And it might get you started on this poem you have to write.”

Charlie sighed and face-palmed. The sound of his hands slapping against his forehead echoed over the quiet lake.

“The phrase you’re looking for, I think, is ‘liven up.’” The voice came from a small canoe about ten feet away from them in which sat a fifteen-year-old boy with black-rimmed glasses and slicked-back hair. He looked remarkably like Charlie, except that he was dressed in a white collared shirt and red bowtie. Even bobbing along in the canoe, he managed to look as if he were preparing to lecture a class on algebra.

“I beg your pardon,” Robin said.

“You cannot just go around modifying the English language as it suits you,” the boy responded. “It makes no sense to invent a word for a thing that already has one.”

“Wordavent,” she answered. Robin cupped her hands to her forehead and squinted. “Do I know you? You look awfully familiar.”

The boy barely glanced in her direction, having lost interest in the conversation. He was now maneuvering a pair of oars and was straining toward the darkened end of the lagoon. A vein bulged in the center of his forehead.

“Dude,” Robin said. “You’re gonna give yourself a stroke.”

He did not respond, but continued pulling at the oars with all of his might. Seated opposite him was a girl who appeared to be around seventeen. She too looked very much like Charlie, with long, curly brown hair, caramel skin, and full lips that were pursed in a tense frown. She was rowing just as hard as the boy, but in the opposite direction. They were, not surprisingly, going nowhere.

“Charlie,” Robin whispered. “I think that’s your sister.”

Charlie’s eyes shot open, and a look of horror crossed his face.

Oh God, no. This place is nuts enough without Layla invading my dreams.

Charlie and his sister Layla loved each other, deep down someplace. It was very deep down, however, and Charlie often couldn’t find an emotional shovel powerful enough to reach that well of love. Her moving out to live with his father had been a joyous occasion for him. He was certain he would eventually miss her, though it hadn’t happened yet. He looked over to where Robin was pointing, and his expression turned to a scowl.

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Strong Brew

Originally posted on Just Us:

Perzon

“It’s purzun,” she says
or at least she would, were the Bronx in her socks
instead of the south of London in her jeans. And
she arises, bent, but better, awakening, shaking off the
dusty din of discarded decaffeinated detritus,
the daily drudge of dying promises
of lies he said, of didn’ts he did and
woulds he wouldn’t and love
that never sweetened the bitter taste of his
stale, morning brew.

but it’s a fresh morn, time for
starry starts and ill-spent dreams
time for love in the streets, of
surreptitious tugs and licentious licks
of games of touch and songs
with no words but plenty of woodwinds
and a salty rhythm from just south of the Equator.
in the old days, that baker’s dozen
dime-store brew, she’d settled for the ease
of decaf, taking the tinge of bitterness
from her palate, and praying for the
death-strike of hope, to…

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100 Days of Art – Day 25: But I Can Dance Among the Clouds

Originally posted on Just Us:

I cannot dance upon my Toes
by Emily Dickinson

I cannot dance upon my Toes —
No Man instructed me —
But oftentimes, among my mind,
A Glee possesseth me,
That had I Ballet knowledge —
Would put itself abroad
In Pirouette to blanch a Troupe —
Or lay a Prima, mad,
And though I had no Gown of Gauze —
No Ringlet, to my Hair,
Nor hopped to Audiences — like Birds,
One Claw upon the Air,
Nor tossed my shape in Eider Balls,
Nor rolled on wheels of snow
Till I was out of sight, in sound,
The House encore me so —
Nor any know I know the Art
I mention — easy — Here —
Nor any Placard boast me —
It’s full as Opera –

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Marching Orders

Because I forgot. Love, Bill

9Charlie was dreaming of hyenas, again. He had dreamt of little else for days. They were not always run of the mill hyenas, however. In his dreams, hyenas were everywhere: in school administering mid-term exams, patrolling the grocery store, even standing at the pulpit in church. While others in his dreams seemed not to notice Charlie, the hyenas always did. Whether he chose to run or fight, the hyenas reacted the same way–ferociously.

This night, however, Charlie was not the prey. He had taken the form of a lion, sitting with his back to the sun at the peak of a sand dune on the Kalahari, in Africa. He was massive, six feet tall at the shoulders, and covered head-to-toe with black fur, except for curly flaxen hair that framed his face at the base of his mane. He stood, panting, watching a family of hyenas that was tormenting a zebra herd. Charlie sat silently, waiting, as the sun settled low on the horizon. As darkness enveloped the Kalahari, he crept toward the hyena clan. His footfalls were silent in the warm sand and soon his pace quickened into a loping gait. Swiftly gathering speed on his descent, he launched himself – airborne, he was, powerful wings unfolding from alongside his back.

photoshopped+black+lionToo late, the hyena clan saw him.

The battle was swift, bloodless, and decidedly one-sided. When it was done, there were zero living hyenas, one winged lion, the zebra herd …

Who’s the Native American dude in the silly hat?

Charlie turned to the intruder and roared a warning. “Who are you?”

“Some call me Kwih-doh,” answered the man. “But my friends  call me Gabe.” The man smiled and pushed the hat from his head, leaving it to dangle on his back from a string tied around his neck. He looked around at the plains – eyebrows raised – and wiped his brow.

Charlie squinted. He had never seen the man before, but knew him immediately. “Gabriel,” he said.

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