Monthly Archives: May 2002

The Daily News

It happened nearby
eyeballs scattered in garden
children ran screaming
father says “they looked like meat.”
eighteen of them, from nine cows.

The British imports
Weakest Link and Millionaire
have now been cancelled,
so it’s time for something new.
Perhaps a remake of Lassie?

Music industry.
Music industry on drugs.
Have any questions?

Transylvanian boy,
worried dead mum a vampire
thrusts dagger in heart.

They can dump the queen
as long as Ananova
will remain online!

Thoughts on a Wednesday morning

Perhaps not coincidentally, my final dream before waking involved some of the concepts I scribbled down before heading off to sleep.

In this dream a member of my writer’s group was explaining that some people find it easier to write about abstract ideas than the concrete. I latched on to this, and realized I too might share this malady. I responded, “You mean one might feel more comfortable describing how lovely women are, as opposed to how lovely a woman is.

Interestingly…during the writer’s group last night, this same individual read something much different that I also latched on to as being a malady I share. She was reading an essay addressed to new writers and giving her one piece of advice: Finish your stories. As difficult as you may find ending the story — as horrible as you may feel the ending you write is — the only way you will get practice writing endings is by writing them. There is little longer than a short story of a few pages in length that I have finished. I do have several longer works begun, but gathering dust.

Perhaps it’s time to refocus my attention away from poetry, and towards completing those stories, and sharpening my descriptive abilities as well.

Thoughts on a Tuesday night

After returning from my weekly trip to my writer’s group, several thoughts occurred to me as I started to drift towards sleep. I jotted them down. Here they are fleshed out, though somewhat disjointed:

When is a door not a door?

Many a third grade child knows the answer to this riddle. It hinges on the playdough used to form the kernel of most jokes at that age – puns. But it also plays to the human mind’s tendency to categorize. When first asked the question, it is difficult to come up with a point in time when something so concrete as a door could not be a door. All doors are doors 100% of the time.

It is not this way with abstract thoughts, which the human mind learns to deal with as we grow older. Ask someone at college age or above “When is murder not murder?” and you’re likely to get some instant responses:

  • “When you’re the state”
  • “When you’re a famous athlete”
  • “When the weapon is words, and the victim a reputation”

Abstract concepts are much more flexible by nature, and can spur hours long discussions into the wee hours of the morning.

However, some of these concepts have a tendency to form into the concrete in our minds. We start to believe that there can only be one definition of the word, and it is the correct definition.

When is incest not incest? There is no obvious answer to this question. Sure, we can argue over the nearness of relation required. (First cousins? Certainly not in Arkansas.) But despite the jokes, a relationship between brother and sister is always classified as incest, regardless of what state you live in. And we’re told such a relationship is wrong, according to nature, and to the Bible.

I don’t think I can argue about nature. Science has shown the potential results. But the Bible is another matter. It lists several relationships God holds abominable. Some of these we classify under the group heading of incest. But these are among the commandments that one follows because God said so. The Bible gives no explanation why.

God does sometimes explain his commandments. For example, shortly after being told we’re not to eat flesh with blood, we’re told the blood of an animal contains the soul. So even though we’re not directly told we can’t drink blood alone, it is very easy to arrive at that conclusion.

But if no reason is given, it is more difficult to expand the prohibitions. And the biblical list of relationships are not exhausted. While the US legal code would indict a half-brother and a half-sister, the Bible wouldn’t. In fact, there is a well-documented instance in the Bible where the relationship wasn’t considered abominable in itself. King David’s son Amnon rapes King David’s daughter Tamar. They had different mothers, and Tamar begs Amnon to first ask their father for her hand in marriage. The reader assumes David would have complied, and there would have been no issue in the marriage. The crime Amnon committed, which later Absalom avenges, was rape, not incest.

Many a religious person may tell you that the US legal code is based on the Bible. But in truth, there are many times where something is immoral under the eyes of the Abrahamic God, but still legal. As there are times when something is moral under the same eyes, but illegal. For example: the nation’s laws tell us that truth is always a defense when it comes to our speech. We’re permitted to say or print anything we wish, as long as we can prove its truth. But God makes it clear truth is not a defense against spreading malicious gossip.

Tongues of Fire

Isaac loved Rebekkah,
Jacob loved Rachel,
and Samson loved Delilah.
The Bible tells us so.

But in the whole Bible,
in all the Holy Scriptures,
one woman loved a man.

Michal loved David.
Michal, King Saul’s daughter,
loved David,
King Saul’s enemy.

We assume David loved Michal.
He was willing to battle
200 Phillistine warriors
for her hand.

So how long did this love last?
Perhaps the only love
in the entire Bible
we know was mutual?
Not long.

For Michal and David
had a weakness –
The same weakness:
They had tongues of fire.

When they descended
into argument
neither fought fair.
“So to her dying day
Michal, daughter of Saul
had no children.”

The only mutual love
in the entire Bible
lost in the ashes
over words spoken
in the heat of anger.

A Biblical parable
illustrating the importance
of cooling our tongues.

Suggestions on Avoiding Coconut Attacks

CBS tells us there’s a greater risk of death from coconuts, but they only provide tips for avoiding the shark attacks.

1) Don’t stand underneath a coconut tree during a hurricane. It won’t provide any protection. Seek shelter instead, you fool.

2) Don’t climb coconut trees without also wearing a helmet on your head. This will protect some, but you can still fall from the tree.

3) Don’t read underneath coconut trees. The law of gravity doesn’t need to be rediscovered. Newton did that years ago.

4) Stay away from all coconut trees if there is anybody named Gilligan within ten feet. (Or if you’re known as ‘Skipper’)

5) Convince your local grocery store not to place coconuts higher than five feet off ground level. (You might still break a toe, though).

Peanut Butter Prose

My favorite authors are those
who write peanut-butter prose–
scenes, characters, lines
that stick to the roof of my mind,
images that last
long after the pages have passed.

Those who read John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meaney have forever etched in their minds a baseball, a finger, and an armadillo.

Similarly, the character of Charly, from Daniel Keyes Flowers for Algernon, refuses to let go.

Tom Robbins is perhaps the only writer on earth who could successfully make a living character out of a can of beans.

And as a bipedal carbon based lifeform who 15 years ago or so thought digital watches were a pretty neat idea, I must say for me Douglas Adams is more quotable than Shakespeare.

But when looking for poetic wisdom to use as mental floss, I turn to Victor Hugo, Charles Baudelaire, or Walt Whitman.

I have many inspirations. Some people get confused when I list Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams along with Joseph Heller and Mark Twain as my comedic influences. They are dumbfounded when they see I have almost as much Heinlein as I do Hugo on my bookshelf. And they’re ready to call a psychiatrist for me when they see my collection of Star Trek novels. (I’ve actually not read most of them…but there are a few authors, particularly Peter David and Diane Duane, who I feel are worth it.)

I know I have a broader bookshelf than many of my fellow SF fans. But I have a broader bookshelf than my fellow literary fans as well. I just read a lot. I don’t have any preconceived notions as to where the good books are to be found. My realization that they can be found anywhere in the dewey decimal system makes shopping for them much more frustrating. (It would be a lot easier to be able to just go to one aisle and buy only books from there.)

I think my problem began in first grade. My first grade teacher (it’s her fault, all her fault) had a continuous contest going every year to see which kids could read the most books.

It wasn’t exactly set up as a contest. Every child wrote down the books they read, along with the adult who listened to them read the books. The teacher advertised it as a challenge for every student to read as many books as they could. Not as a challenge between students. However, records were kept. At the start of the school year I happened to know that the all-time record was held by a girl three years older than me, who lived across the street. I knew my brother was in third place. I left them in the dust. 1509 books. My brother claims I cheated, but then again, he might just be mad that he was pushed back to fourth.

I never stopped reading, and at the early pace I set for myself, I couldn’t limit my choices. I never told the other boys in my class when I was reading Judy Blume’s books for example. I would have been unmercifully teased. But it definitely presented a perspective on life that was real fascinating to me at the time.

The books on my to read list right now:
Victor Hugo – The Man Who Laughs
Douglas Adams – Salmon of a Doubt
JK Rowling – Harry Potter Bk V – unfortunately, its release date keeps getting pushed back.

Writers Groups

This weekend I attended a science fiction convention. (Yes, I’m one of those.)
There was a panel on writer’s groups, how to form them, where to find them. I am an amateur writer, who has had 1 or 2 successes in publishing, and the idea of the panel interested me. I’ve been in a successful writer’s group for the past 5 years or so.

I showed up, and on the panel was a well-published local author. A few books on the NYTimes bestseller list over the last decade. No names will be mentioned. Also on the panel was another member of this well-published author’s writer’s group, and a third person who rarely if ever got a chance to speak.

The two members of the same writers group talked about how well their writer’s group has worked for them, how it’s not like anything they’ve ever heard anybody else doing, and how the group is closed and they’re not accepting new members. And that’s pretty much all they talked about. When somebody suggested, “How about doing it this way?” their response was “No we couldn’t think of doing it that way, that wouldn’t work for us.”

It never occurred to them, I think, that they weren’t there to discuss only their writer’s group. They were there to discuss writer’s groups in general. It never occurred to them that writer’s groups can work in a variety of formats. (Only one format had ever worked for them…but then again, they’ve only ever had one format…)

I thought about raising my hand and asking the well-published author, if she knew about the mixed reviews her latest novels have been getting. The reader-rankings for her novels on have slowly been dropping. And since it is mostly devoted fans who are likely to be voting for an author of a continuing-series…this is doubly meaningful.

Here was someone pretty much giving a lecture on writer’s groups, and it looks to me like her writer’s group is failing her. My analysis is that she has been with the same writer’s group too long. They’ve become good friends. And they’re not telling her what she needs to know. She needs fresh insight.

I know I am not as well-published as she. But I believe a good writer’s group is made up of a core of writers who’ve you become comfortable with, along with new ones who don’t know you well yet. The latter is very important. The more familiar with your writing someone is, the more lapses they’re likely to forgive.

God is perverted!

When correctly viewed
anything is lewd
I could tell you things about Peter Pan
and the Wizard of Oz, there’s a dirty old man!
— Tom Lehrer, “Smut”

Some people are able to see something dirty in just about anything. From a Disney movie, to the tree next door.

If you are still under the delusion a decade later that someone at Disney got fired for drawing a spire in the shape of a phallus in the Little Mermaid cover art, you should read what the Urban Legends website has to say on the incident.

“But sir, you’re the one showing me the dirty pictures.”

Disney isn’t alone as a victim in this real-life version of the old “Rorshach test” joke. Even God can be accused. As we know from the infamous Joyce Kilmer poem, only god can make a tree.

I wonder if the editor of this newspaper has read Terry Pratchett’s novel, “The Truth.” Probably not. But its possible the students who submitted this ‘erotic fruit’ picture to did.

Hired Mouths

Hired Mouths

It must be nice to be a congressman
getting to watch these private performances
by actors and actresses

who believe since they were in
a movie or documentary
they are now experts.

I’m not saying the testimony
isn’t more interesting
when read by a professional actor.

I’m sure it is.
And Congress doesn’t have to pay
Hollywood’s high fees.

But does Congress want to risk
being swayed by the group
with the better hired mouth?

If Julia Roberts tears
are more persuasive
then Charlton Heston’s machismo

Will this have an effect
on who gets our tax money?
We can only hope!

Proof of God

Some people would consider this proof of the existence of God. The sheer magnitude of the beauty inherent in this photograph has to be the work of a higher being.

similarly, others might think the same of this photo. (oh, the pictures I could have included here…maybe some other time.)

While neither is absolute proof, such proof is not needed. The existence of God doesn’t rely on evidence. It relies on faith. One either has it, or one doesn’t.