Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Slow. They Called You SLOW!




I admit to having my moments. I’m not the most observant or brightest guy in the world.
But part of improving is recognizing where one can improve, right? So, here is a list of a few of the things I’ve figured out recently.

Manneken Pis

I’m a fan of Asterix and Obelix, and just this week finally got the joke in this panel from Asterix Chez les Belges:



Up until now, I’d just assumed, “Ha ha, they’re making a joke about a kid having to go to the bathroom a lot after he sneaks beer and doesn’t really have anywhere to go, since they’d just remarked on how flat Belgium is.”

No. They’re making a joke specifically about Manneken Pis, that famous peeing-boy statue in Brussels:


Barfy
 
Not until I had to clean up one of our dogs’ barf twice in less than a span of 12 hours did I hit on a reason why one of the dogs in The Family Circus might be named Barfy. That’s certainly something they’ve not explored in the comic strip.



More revelations to come, I’m sure. Unless Lenny kicks me out.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Scale Model of the Solar System



This is pretty neat, except in my solar system: Nine Pumpkins. Always nine pumpkins.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

On Originality

Several years ago, a young German author by the name of Helene Hegemann made waves by first writing and publishing an explosive first novel, then being called out as a serial plagiarist and then condemning the creative world as devoid of original ideas and thus making plagiarism -- or remixing -- the only viable option.

She's not repentant about it (being obviously more upset she got called out and vilified than for the original sin itself).

I might agree with her on one point: Remixing. That is if I can separate her idea of remixing -- taking words directly from other writers -- and making remixing the concept of taking a tried-and-true trope and making it your own through originality of expression, which I believe exists in spades no matter how many times the Epic Journey or the Retelling of Creation has been written about.

Take, for example, this piece of music:



It is utterly original, captivating, and familiar to just about everyone on the planet who hears it.

Then there's this version of it:



Same tune. Same notes. But done with enough of a twist that it sounds new. It takes the music from something you might listen to on a quiet summer's night and makes it into something you might want to run away from if you hear it coming from a shack in the middle of a swamp somewhere.

It's a tried-and-true trope, remixed. Which makes it original in my book.

Here's another example:



This is, inarguable, Judy Garland's song. Until you hear this version:



It's still that familiar song, but Israel Kamakawiwo'ole's remix of it makes it utterly his.

This is creativity. This is taking that familiar storyline and putting your own twist and turn on it to make it utterly yours, even if that same kind of story has been told over and over and over again.

It's what I aim to do with Doleful Creatures -- and I think it's possible, given some nagging thoughts that have come into my head over the past month as I've been thinking on this book again. I'm going to make a familiar story utterly mine.

Without cheating.

Without plagiarizing.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Goinnnnnnnnn Uuuuuup!

When we moved into this house five years ago, we had to remove the upstairs banister to get some mattresses upstairs. Just today, getting around to replacing the banister. Not done yet, but here's the score:

Number of trips to the hardware store needed to get the project to this point: Five, including the one where I chickened out and said they were out of stuff because it hadn't come in on the truck.

Number of trips to the hardware store today: Two. Fortunately, all in one trip because the first store didn't have the wood buttons I needed.

Number of bolts broken inside the wall and concealed with a wood button: One.

Number of times the 12-year-old was summoned from the basement to help: Four.

Number of times the 12-year-old felt like he was summoned from the basement to help: One million.

Number of cuss words uttered during the four hours it took to get the project this far: Unknown; currently hanging in space over Lake Michigan.

Number of screws stripped, bent, or broken: Five.

Number of tools borrowed from the wife: Two.

Number of YouTube videos watched, featuring well-dressed individuals in sunlit conditions, safety glasses, safety aprons and a safety carnation at the lapel so they don't look too industrial, using $500 chop saws and other fancy equipment to complete the job: Six.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Chainsaws Out



Yes, I’m still revising Doleful Creatures. Right now, doing so with a chainsaw.

I’ve had a few beta readers tell me I need to get to the point, that I’m taking too long to get to the story, that I’m starting to sound like Rachel Maddow building up to Trump’s 2005 tax return.


So I’m cutting. And rearranging. But mostly cutting. If I read a chapter and can’t decide what the point to it is or how it helps the story along, it goes. I might mark some of it for preservation elsewhere, but mostly I’m just cutting. In fact, with the last few cuts, the one of the final remnants of the original story I started out with is gone. Oh, the main story is still there. Just cutting another subplot that was slowing the story down.

Hoping this helps a bit.

Also hoping I can remain consistent. Last time I undertook a serious revision, I got through the first 25 chapters, then had to set it aside for work-related crises, and never got back to it. I could have started up again at Chapter 26, but I had the feeling that would not help with consistency. And I’m glad I started over – because I’ve cut a lot. Or at least set some stuff aside for consideration elsewhere or later. Or never.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

I am Still Mid-Wrestle



And I will tell you of the wrestle which I had before God, before I received a remission of my sins.

Thus opens (almost) the book of Enos, found in the Book of Mormon. And thus begins one of the more touching personal essays ever written in scripture, where we see an ordinary man struggle for the salvation of his own soul and the souls of his bretheren.

"Behold,” Enos tells us, “I went to hunt beasts in the forests; and the words which I had often heard my father speak concerning eternal life, and the joy of the saints, sunk deep into my heart.”

Who is Enos’ father? It is Jacob, son of Lehi.

And what did Jacob teach concerning eternal life and the joy of the saints?

He taught, in Jacob Chapter 4, verse six: “[W]e search the prophets, and we have many revelations and the spirit of prophecy, and having all these witnesses we obtain a hope, and our faith becometh unshaken, insomuch that we truly can command in the name of Jesus and the very trees obey us, or the mountains, or the waves of the sea.

“Nevertheless,” he continues in verse seven, “the Lord God showeth us our weaknesses that we may know that it is by his grace, and his great condescensions unto the children of men, that we have power to do these things.”

Revelation, witnesses, hope and faith; but all this only through humility and the grace of God and His love for us, Jacob taught.

What wonderful things for a son to learn.

But we know the journey we take on the road of faith may be guided by others, but the drive we have to undertake the journey and to observe and appreciate the beauty along the way is ours alone to find. I’m so glad Enos found it, else we would not have these beautiful words of his to read:

[M]y soul hungered; and I kneeled down before my Maker, and I cried unto him in mighty prayer and supplication for mine own soul; and all the day long did I cry unto him; yea, and when the night came I did still raise my voice high that it reached the heavens.

And there came a voice unto me, saying: Enos, thy sins are forgiven thee, and thou shalt be blessed.

And I, Enos, knew that God could not lie; wherefore, my guilt was swept away.

I remember sitting on my bunk in a red brick building near the heart of Toulouse, France, studying my scriptures when I felt the power of that phrase – I knew that God could not lie – shoot through me like a lightning bolt. And I remember, too, asking the same question Enos asked: “Lord, how is it done?”

The Lord responded to me with another bolt as I read his response to Enos: “Because of thy faith in Christ, whom thou has never before heard nor seen.”

I admit to shallowness. Then, as now, I was and am much more interested in the state of my own soul than those I might be called to teach, whether they were the citizens of the city of Toulouse, or those who surround me now. I realize, on my journey, I am not as far along as Enos, who poured out his soul in sincerity for God to preserve his bretheren, the Lamanites, and to preserve the records which he kept in the hope they would help bring the Lamanites back into the covenant. I did in my own way go “about among the people . . . prophesying of things to come, and testifying of the things which I had heard and seen,” as Enos did.

God did not lie, I could say, and say now, with faith and sincerity. I have learned that, just as Enos learned it long ago. Perhaps that would be a start for someone else’s journey along that beautiful road.

But like Enos, I knew the journey would not always be pleasant. Enos saw the stiffneckedness of his own people, the Nephites, and how their behavior inspired the Lamanites not to believe in Christ. Even among his own people, he saw “nothing, save it was exceeding harshness, preaching and prophesying of wars, and contentions, and destructions, and continually reminding them of death, and the duration of eternity, and the judgments and the power of God” that kept the Nephites from “going down speedily to destruction.”

I see that too, in the world we have today. I see that stiffneckedness in myself. When I seek to take the easy way. Or I fail to talk nightly with the God who placed me here, who blesses me daily with the joys and challenges life brings.

But I remind myself, God does not lie.

I must be more like Enos, who declared the word of God all his days, “and have rejoiced in it above that of the world.”

There, too, I could rejoice.

I am still mid-wrestle.

I re-read the words of Enos, and hope anew.