Abandon Text!

W. H. Auden once said: "Poems are not finished; they are abandoned." I have been abandoning writing projects for many years, since only the pressure of deadline and high expectations ever got me to finish, or even start, anything of merit. This blog is an attempt to create a more consistent, self-directed writing habit. Hopefully a direction and voice will emerge.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Sigh . . .

Charlie Brown said, "Happiness is three things to look forward to and nothing to dread." I think I can extend that with the corollary: "Depression is three things to dread and nothing to look forward to."

Usually my brain is happily enough engaged in puzzles in work and home to never get stuck in an emotional funk. But for some reason, I'm . . . funky. I can point to a few proximate reasons: the things at work that keep not getting done, the stressful situations with slow business or screwed-up projects. But there's something else at work on me, too. Janet picked up on it and even came in and asked me if I'm OK. Usually I can put words to such things, but this time it took a long time, and I just floundered. Maybe that's it . . . flounder flouder flounder. Nothing feels like it's done, anymore, just muddled through.

Now I think I'll go repress some more.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Present company accepted

I've been listening to Eckhart Tolle's The New Earth on my Treo on my morning runs. It's a good way to absorb the book, because you can't really think about Eckhart Tolle's teaching too much. I kinda have to osmose it, settle into it. It has been a lot like reading Unconditional Parenting, in that it is resonating deeply on an unconscious level but often defying the rational mind's analysis.

I have known for a long time that there was something wrong with being absorbed in past and future at the expense of the present moment. I remember being at Rose's farm (what, ten years ago?) and realizing suddenly and completely that one could never go wrong if you just made sure you did the right thing right now. It seemed so easy to say that, and yet so impossible to do. Part of the problem is that it isn't really something you do; the whole notion of doing is somewhat contrary to the experience of attention to the present moment.

I was in my study the other day, and my dog Max rolled on his belly, his tail whacking loudly on the floor, giving me that expectant look. I said, fondly and rhetorically, "Yes, Max, you think the whole purpose of my life is to rub your tummy." And I pulled up short on that, because Eckhart Tolle was saying in my head, "Yes, in that moment, the entire purpose of your life IS to rub his tummy." Any notion of teleology, that somehow this moment is only important because it leads to some other future moment, invariably devalues what's going on right now. Petting a dog becomes a distraction, a nuisance, a source of irritation . . . instead of just being a moment of warmth and kindness, for its own sake.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

I'll buy a vow, please

Something about Bob and Mary Alice's wedding has captured Aidan's imagination. Suddenly weddings are figuring prominently in his animal friends lives, and he even did up his gibbon in a veil and train. This has lead him to a number of important questions about weddings and marriage: Can a man marry another man? Can a wedding be undone? What, exactly, are they promising to do?

I find these especially telling questions, because sometimes I think Aidan is thinking more seriously about them than the people taking the vows these days. I think the matter is more complicated by the fact that most anybody who opts for a non-church wedding is put in the position of having to write their own vows. I think this would be a fine thing, except that most people see this as an exercise in love poetry rather than the crafting of a vow to be taken seriously and literally. (Bob's and MA's vows were, by the way, just fine.) I am amazed at how few self-composed vows actually mention the really important things: fidelity ("foresaking all others"), permanance ("'til death us do part"), and constancy ("for richer or poor, in sickness and in health"). I don't believe these are poetic sentiments of love; they are literal, specific promises. As gender roles evolve and societal norms blur, it is even more important that people really understand exactly what they are promising to do.

Monday, May 29, 2006

How to write an episode of "Law and Order"

Fished from the Dick Wolf's trash . . .

  1. Think of a social issue with two sides that can be argued (plausible or implausibly) e.g. "should people be held criminally liable for crimes committed when they go off their psychiatric medication" or "should people be allowed to marry their cats." Make sure you have at least three angles on the issue: the Red-Blooded American point of view, the Hardened Realist point of view, and the Mainstream Liberal point of view. For instance, the three POVs on the cat issue would be rendered this way:
    Stabler: "But it's a fucking cat!"

    Cragen: "People do some crazy things, but we can't afford to pursue such matters."

    Benson: "The law has no business interfering with what happens between two consenting mammals."

    All three views must be given air time, preferably with plot twists and dramatic interviews with suspects; if you're low on time, squeeze it into a talky argument in the police station. Coffee or a sandwich must be present for the argument. Of the three points of view, the Mainstream Liberal point of view must always be portrayed most sympathetically. It does not necessarily need to triumph in court, but it must be allowed the last word.
  2. Decide where the victim will be found. 90% of the time the victim will be dead, unless this is L&O: SVU, in which case 80% of the time the victim will be found extra-gruesomely dead. The best technique is to flip open a magazine and select the first picture that comes up. Then write a scene in which two people (not one, not three, two people) find the body after having a casual conversation about something prosaic.
  3. Next comes the Detectives-on-the-Scene scene. The detectives hold up their badges while crossing a police line. Uniformed cop begins expositional description with lots of information in a business-like but not unhuman manner. The detectives must observe something significant that the uniformed cops did not.
  4. Next comes the Scavenger Hunt sequence. Second-string detectives do three to four inteviews with colorful character actors, each one leading to the next. Italian, German, and Polish accents are encouraged. All Asians must speak perfect unaccented English. The phrase "if you know what I mean" must be used at least once.
  5. Twenty to thirty minutes into the show, an arrest must be made. Arrests should be made publically, never in private. Snappy arrest lines are a plus, e.g. "the cat ratted you out, buster." Miranda warnings must always be started but never finished on-camera. The Miranda reading is always a great time to cut to a commercial.
  6. A series of Interrogations must follow. Male detectives are encouraged to sit in chairs backwards. Defense lawyers must always be less sympathetic than their clients. Discussions over plea bargains between client and lawyer must be accomplished via a combination of imperceptible nods and mental telepathy.
  7. Repeat the Scavanger Hunt, Arrest, and Interrogation sequences at least once. Now is a good time to introduce the Plot Twist. The plot twist must change at least one, preferably more of the following: the primary suspect, the crime, the motive, or the social issue (see #1). For instance: "We thought the cat killed her for the money, but now we've discovered the cat is a lesbian!"

To be continued . . .

Sunday, May 28, 2006

cf uy8i b

(This was my son Malcolm's first blog. I'm so proud . . . blogging at age two. Sniff.)