Random musings on a writer's life & times, with occasional input from acquaintances


Friday, December 01, 2006

I have a cold. What a drag. My wife also has a cold. And so does my eldest son. We are the draggiest.

Today is Woody Allen's 71st birthday. He is one my great heroes. He once said: "My one regret in life is that I am not someone else." Me, too. In fact, I might wish I was Woody Allen, except I can't stand whinette Mia Farrow and I think Soon-Yi is ugly as a mud fence. He shoulda hung on to Diane Keaton.

I think I have finished my Christmas shopping, but now I am receiving mystery emails from internet retailers telling me delivery of gifts I purchased will be delayed because of heavy buyer demand. I received two such emails, neither of which identified the product(s). What, I'm supposed to guess? I could call the retailers, as the emails suggested, but then I'd bog down trying to penetrate their telephone defenses. Sigh.

I had a poem published this week in the new issue of Rattle magazine, a slick rag out of Los Angeles. Everyone should buy a copy and read it. This means you.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

There is something insane about a lack of doubt. Doubt, to me anyway, is what makes you human, and without doubt even the righteous lose their grip not only on reality but also on their humanity.
--actress Tilda Swinton, b. 1960

Friday, July 14, 2006

So this guy from Rattle magazine sends me an e-mail saying he wants the internet address of my blog or website because he plans to list it in the magazine when Rattle publishes one of my poems next fall.

I shipped him the old http://writeright.blogspot.com with some reservation, seeing as how I hadn’t posted anything on Writeright since March and that screed was the first in quite a while. I guess I should put some more recent stuff on here to justify Rattle’s attempt to promo my red hot and rolling literary career.

Funny how old Writeright evolved. Or maybe not, given that its evolution reflects my personality in so many ways, not all of them positive. Writeright began out of curiosity -- I’d read and heard about blogs, my oldest son created one to rant about baseball, music and literature, I wondered what it would be like to operate one. I started Writeright and initially found it intriguing, amusing, entertaining. Then I wondered what it would be like to produce a blog entry every day, sort of like a daily newspaper column (I used to write a weekly one), and I decided to pursue that idea. That turned Writeright into a challenge, as I scrambled to come up with fresh material (how many times can you write “today I got up, ate breakfast, ate lunch, ate dinner and soon I will go to bed”?), resisted distractions (movies, ballgames, TV, etc.) and setbacks (colds, flu, back aches, pulled groin muscle, surgeries for family members, funeral trips, etc.) and struggled to produce literature in my Real Job as poet/fictionwriter at the same time. The challenge became, as challenges so often do for me, a burden. And the burden became a problem. And the problem bummed me out. And I solved it, or at least backburnered it, by gradually pulling the plug. First I quit writing blog entries daily. Then I quit worrying about posting once a week. Then I quit thinking about Writeright at all, pretty much.

So . . . now Rattle wants to plug my blog. And that means I should put something new on it. This is new entry number one. No problem, right?

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Time to rant about TV sportscasters again.

I’ve spent a lot of time watching college basketball tournaments on the boob tube lately, and as a result I’ve ground my teeth down almost to my bleeding gums at the inanity of various aspects of sportspeak.

Prime complaint 1: “Obviously.”

Again and again and again, sportscasters begin a remark with “obviously” and then proceed to blather on at length about some bit of strategy or shift in game momentum or impact from referees’ decisions.

“Obviously,” barks an ex-point guard with a five-dollar facelift and moussed hair, “Coach John Blutarsky needs to call time out here to diagram a play so his team can work the ball inside to its 7-foot, 4-inch center for the last shot of this one-point game. The opponent’s tallest player is 5-foot-3, so going to the big man makes sense in this situation.”

“Obviously,” oozes an oily-voiced dweeb who has been sniffing jocks ever since he was student manager of his junior high basketball team at Millard Fillmore Junior High, “the momentum of this game shifted when Northsouth State began knocking down those three-pointers. The Yankrebs have scored thirty-six straight, and the other team is beginning to look a bit demoralized.”

“Obviously,” rasps some 6-foot-4 lesbian with scarecrow hair and a letterwoman’s jacket from Gertrude Stein A&M, “the referee’s ruling that Lulu Dildo’s basket came after the final buzzer of this tie game means we are going to play overtime here tonight, which means this contest is not over, not by a long shot.”

The deal is, if something is obvious, YOU DON’T HAVE TO TELL ME ABOUT IT! Shut the hell up and let the game unwind! Babbling about obvious stuff detracts from telecasts to the nth degree. I guess it’s a hangover from radio days, when most broadcasters feared the “dead air” of a moment’s silence might drive listeners away (whatever became of Wolfman Jack, anyhow?). With television, though, the audience can see what is going on, and anyone with half a brain can figure out that you go to the 7-footer for the crucial basket against a team of 5-footers. Choose your words, sportscasters, don’t just talk to hear yourself talk. If you have something insightful to say, spit it out. If you are going to say something obvious, stick an elbow in your mouth.

These talking heads on the basketball broadcasts could take a hint from good old Vin Scully, who has called Brooklyn/LA Dodgers games on radio and TV for more than fifty years. Vinny, as his fans know, is willing to let a bit of dramatic silence settle over the airwaves at a crucial moment, which tends to heighten the drama rather than undercut it as the relentless spewing of “obvious” verbiage does. Vin will even allow some silence at non-crucial moments, so the audience can pick up the sound of the crowd or the bat hitting the ball, which adds enjoyable ambiance.

In fact, listening to these airheads jabber makes me long for those days of my long-gone youth when I occasionally stumbled across announcerless telecasts of sporting events. I remember watching football games in California in the early 1950s that were shown without comment, the only sound being popping pads and crowd shouts. In Florida during the late 1950s I saw American Legion baseball games that involved a camera and mike behind home plate and no commentary. Those were the Frontier Days of television and contemporary media wizards doubtless see them as primitive beyond belief, but I would rather hear a basketball bounce and sneakers squeak than some halfwit gush “obviously” over and over. And don’t get me started on ESPN’s Dick Vitale, who (thank god) has not done tournament play-by-play so far, and his habit of SHOUTING obvious gibberish.

Prime Complaint 2: “Tough.”

Sportscasters seem to have decided the word “tough” is an all-purpose weapon with which to bludgeon basketball fans.

A shot sunk by a power forward with three opponents hanging from his arms, shoulders and neck is “tough,” as in admirable. A thirty-foot clanker launched by a shooting guard when his team is trying to stall out the final seconds of a game with a one-point lead is “tough,” as in stupid. A referee calling a foul on a center whose sideways glance at his defender caused the man to execute a backflip with a full twist and a half-gainer is “tough,” as in bad. A game against a team that figures to kick the crap out of you is “tough,” as in frightening. A cheerleader who falls from the top of a human pyramid and breaks her neck but waves to the crowd and sings the school fight song as she is carried from the gym is “tough,” as in brave. Bobby Knight’s coaching style is “tough,” as in brutal. The subfreezing weather outside the gym is “tough,” as in miserable.

So on and on. Tough, tough, tough. Get another word, word, word!

Complaint 3: This involves an isolated incident, so it doesn’t qualify as a Prime Complaint, but I just couldn’t let it go. I was watching a game the other night and the color man, one of those aging ex-jocks who must have made it through college (assuming he did) with a D-minus-minus GPA, said something to the effect of: “Obviously, it appeared Hooligan Tech might be in tough shape for tonight’s game as a result of All-American Baskerville Holmes being suspended for punching the other team’s Dancing Bear mascot during last week’s game, but with Tech leading by 43 points and only a minute left on the clock it appears Holmes’ absence amounts to a mute point.”

“Mute” point! “Mute” point! I can’t stand it!

But I suppose since the world seldom asks me to rule the world of sportscasting word choice and/or pronunciation, my feelings amount to a moot point.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Only the bored welcome the unexpected.

-- L. Rust Hills, editor and writer

Sunday, November 13, 2005

So did you see that wire story in The Oregonian the other day about the mother and two middle-aged sons who went to Port Orford from Idaho to scatter their husband/father’s ashes in the Pacific and got knocked down by a “sneaker” wave that drowned the mother and one of the sons? Is that irony, or what?

Reminds me of a story I covered (by phone, thank god, not on the scene) when I was a reporter for the Minneapolis Trombone many years back. A northern Minnesota family -- dad, mom, grade school son and daughter -- went without individual gifts so they could pool their Christmas money and buy a snowmobile as a family present. Christmas morning they took the machine out to tear around the snowbound countryside, sped onto a frozen-over lake and plummeted through the ice. All four drowned.

On the lighter side, I covered (again by phone, again in Minneapolis) a story about young marrieds who set out for the hospital through a blizzard when the wife went into labor with their first baby. They ran off the road into a ditch in the middle of rural Minnesota nowhere. The husband pulled the wife out of the car and coaxed her a mile or so through snow and howling wind to the nearest building, which turned out to be an old folks’ home. One of the residents turned out to be a retired obstetrician, age 87 or thereabouts, who delivered the baby with no sweat. (Beulah! Boil some water and tear up those sheets!)

Irony is part of life, and death. Hi-dee-ho.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

You’re about to read a Sunday 7. You lucky dog (or dogette, as the case may be).

1) What are you wearing?

Bare feet, blue shorts with maroon piping, white t-shirt with drawing of three hiking potatoes who say, sequentially, “I,” “Da,” “Ho.”

2) What are you reading?

“Until I Find You,” a new novel by John Irving. I just finished Harry Potter 6 (aka “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince”), so I thought perhaps it was time for something racier. Hard to imagine anything much racier than Harry snogging Ginny, though.

3) What’s for dinner?

Some kind of rabbit food. I went along to carry the wallet when my wife/chef, Cookie Jean, raided the Hillsdale Farmer’s Market this morning. She made off with several forms of vegetation.

4) What’s the best thing that happened this week?

Cookie Jean participated in the Hood to Coast Relay with a neighborhood team (the founders are pillars of the local Catholic church, so the team is called The Cardinal Sinners) Friday and Saturday, and she thought that was way cool. I guess, by extension, I think so, too. I’m too far out of shape to run three five-mile or so relay legs in 24 hours, so I stayed home and worked on expanding my collection of rejection slips. Maybe next year. Ha!

5) What’s bugging you?

Technology has defeated me again. My house has a computer-controlled, in-ground irrigation system for the lawn. Over the long, wet winter (which didn’t end in Oregon until July) I forgot how to operate it. Now drought has set in and my grass is dying. I run around the yard all day hauling hose and re-positioning a dinky sprinkler disguised as a ceramic frog. Said frog has two broken legs, alas, which causes the sprinkler to lean hard left and sometimes, if agitated by fluctuating water pressure, to flip over on its back. This is not an efficient way to water a lawn. I’m thinking about sneaking outside tonight with a can of green spray paint to touch up the large brown patches until rain resumes in October.

6) Where in the world is Carmen San Diego?

Zolfo Springs, Florida. It’s tropical, so lawns find it easy being green.

7) What’s it all about, Dave?

Pronoun problems aside, novelist-travelwriter Paul Theroux hit the nail on the head -- or at least on the side of the neck -- when he said:

"A person becomes a writer because they're deficient. They have problems. They're crazy. They have unhappy families. They're eccentric. And not because they've read a lot of books necessarily, but on the contrary -- maybe they haven't read enough books. There's a strong irrationality about the writing life. Often a writer writes just to maintain their sanity."

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