Friday, September 22, 2017

There Ya Gogh!

Thought for the day:   It's hard to explain puns to kleptomaniacs, because they always take things literally. 

gullible me, second grade
I've always been gullible, but I'm in recovery stage. Used to be, I believed anything anyone cared to tell me. I mean, why would anyone lie to me, right? One fella we know turned out to be a pathological liar, and he used to tell me some reeeeeal whoppers about his so-called adventures. Smarticus knew he was full of it, and so did most of our friends, but this guy loved to corner me at parties so he could bend my ear with his outrageous tales, because I always swallowed his stories hook, line, and sinker. Periodically, he'd turn to his wife and say, "Ain't that right, babe?" to which she dutifully provided his desired, "Yes, dear" response. (If I'd paid closer attention, I might have noticed her eyes rolling...)

I eventually caught on to the improbability of the things this guy was telling me and learned to steer clear of him, but as a child, I was definitely fair game for the things various family members told me in jest, especially my mother and Aunt Myrtle.

Two jokes they got me with involved names on  mailboxes. The last name? Bean. As we drove past said Bean mailbox, which sat beside the road next to a farmer's field, my mother said, "I wonder how our old friend Lima is doing?" My aunt said, " I heard he and Pinto had a baby. Named her Navy." Me, wide-eyed in the back seat, said something like, " I didn't know you knew them..." Which, of course, spurred them to come up with more names.

The second name that inspired them to yank my chain was Road. Same thing, only this time we were walking in the Pocono Mountains area while on vacation. As I recall, they mentioned names like Tobacco and Dusty. To my credit, I caught on a little faster this time, and even added a couple names of my own.

Which may explain why they didn't pull that joke on me a third time.

Anyhow, I was reminded of those two memories by an email Smarticus sent me recently. It's a rather clever family tree list of names that I'm sure my mother and Aunt Myrt would have appreciated. I hope you do, too.

The fun family?

'Tis the hypothetical family tree of the great Vincent Van Gogh, pictured at right in his 1887 self-portrait.

By the way, you know why he was an artist?

(shhhh) I hear he needed the monet...

Talking about artists, (Weren't we?) what do you think Salvadore Dali's favorite breakfast was? A nice bowl of surreal, of course.

And what's a modern artist's favorite footwear? Sketchers!

Okay, I'll stop. Let's take a look at that whimsical family tree, shall we?

  • First, there's his annoying brother... Please Gogh.
  • His dizzy aunt... Verti Gogh.
  • His prune-eating brother... Gotta Gogh
  • His cousin who worked in a convenience store... Stop'n Gogh
  • His Yugloslavian grandfather... U Gogh
  • The distant cousin who bleached all of his clothes white... Hue Gogh
  • The other cousin from Illinois... Chica Gogh
  • His uncle, the magician... Wherediddy Gogh
  • His Mexican cousin... Amee Gogh
  • His Mexican cousin's American half-brother... Grin Gogh
  • His nephew who drove a stagecoach... Wessfar Gogh
  • His poor ol' constipated uncle... Cant Gogh (He should work something out with Gotta...)
  • His ballroom-dancing aunt... Tan Gogh
  • His bird-loving uncle... Flamin Gogh
  • His psychoanalyst uncle... E Gogh
  • The fruit-loving cousin... Man Gogh
  • His postive-thinking aunt... Wayto Gogh
  • His bouncy nephew... Po Gogh
  • His disco-dancing sister... Go Gogh
  • His niece who travels in an RV... Winnie Bay Gogh
                                       Can you think of any others to add?

                Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Out of the Cave and Swatting at Gnats

Thought for the day:  A hibernating snail is not necessarily dead. [Messaod Mohammed]

[image courtesy of Morguefile]
[YAWN] It's time to drag my weary bones (Snap! Crackle! Pop!) out of the editing cave long enough to write a new post.

Nope, still not done with the editing, but I've already foisted enough reruns on you guys. The truth is, I really am more like that hibernating snail in the thought for the day than a bear... not all that grumpy or dangerous, but I sure am SLOW.

So, what to write about? My blogging brain isn't firing on all cylinders right now, so I'm gonna ease my way back into this. (It's always best not to test the depth of the water with both feet.) Today is September 15... so what happened on this date in history?
[image courtesy of wiki]

As it turns out... LOTS of stuff, but seeing's as how I'm trying to ease back into blogging, I won't natter on about all of them... or even most of some. Just two. (You're welcome.)

First, I'll natter about... gnats. Miserable little creatures, aren't they? Anyone who does outdoor work, especially in sweaty climes, is well aware of those little booger bugs with a propensity for buzzing around heads, flying up noses and into eyes, and getting stuck in perspiration. (Why the heck didn't Noah smoosh them when he had the chance?)

So what is it about gnats and this particular date in history? Well, included in a loooooong list of historic events that occurred on this date throughout the ages, I found a peculiar listing for 1946, in which the Dodgers beat the Cubs 2-0. Yeah, I know... nothing historic THERE, but that game was called after only five innings. Not because of rain... or tornado... or hurricane... or fire... or flood. Because of gnats. Swarms of them. Who'd think a little critter like that could cause such misery and mayhem that the Cubs lost their opportunity to win that game? (Um, not that they WOULD have, mind you, but I'm just saying...) It wasn't the size or annoyance factor of any individual gnat, but the accumulative effect of a mess of them. A whole gang of them crawled out from under their rocks and banded together to create an atmosphere of cursing, swatting, and running. And in essence, the gnats... won the day. And all the good people retreated.

[photograph: Carol Highsmith]
The second event from this date in history, surprisingly enough, wasn't included on the list that cited the gnat tale, which I found astounding, because this second event was something that truly changed the course of history.

In 1963, hate-filled white supremacists bombed the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, and four little girls were killed. Another little girl was blinded for life, and fourteen other church members were seriously injured. It's horrifying that it took something this terrible to awaken America to the deplorable state of race relations in some parts of this country, but that wake-up call also provided impetus for the passage of new civil rights laws.

Now here we are in 2017, and it seems that white supremacists are crawling out from under their rocks not only here in the United States, but in other countries all over the world, and they're banding together to create a renewed atmosphere of cursing, violence, and fear. Like swarms of gnats, they cause misery and mayhem, and the diseases they try to spread are hatred and intolerance.

The one thing we should hate is hatred; the one we should not tolerate is intolerance.

The following photograph was taken in 1992 by small-town newspaper photographer Todd Robertson at a KKK rally in Gainesville, Georgia. (If you'd like to read more about it, check this earlier post )

The child in that picture was only three years old at time. I wonder where he is now... and whether he rose above the hatred he was taught. Is he one of the white supremacists now crawling out from under their slimy rocks? Look at the face of the now-retired trooper Allen Campbell. What sadness he must have felt in his soul to see an innocent child clad in garb of hatred.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. [Martin Luther King, Jr.]

On this September 15 of 2017, I despair that such hatred is still in existence and that the passage of civil rights laws hasn't erased intolerance from the evil hearts of some... gnats. That is what these white supremacists and neo-Nazis are to me... an annoying swarm of creatures that will be smooshed in the end. These gnats will not win, and the fight for decency will not end early. There are far more of us with love in our hearts than there are of them. This time, the good people will not retreat.

We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope. [Martin Luther King, Jr.]

                              Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Good Guys Don't Always Wear White Hats

Thought for the day:  What I had to face, the very bitter lesson that everyone who wants to write has got to learn was that a thing may in itself be the finest piece of writing one has ever done, and yet have absolutely no place in the manuscript one hopes to publish. [Thomas Wolfe]

Howdy! It's that time again... time for the monthly post for the awesome Insecure Writer's Support Group. I'm telling ya, the amount of support this group offers beats the heck out of the most expensive underwire bra in the world... lots more comfortable, too.

Hats off to ninja writer Alex Cavanaugh, the founder of this extraordinary group, and to all of the fine folks who work so hard to make and keep it a success. If you'd like to join or would like to follow links to some other IWSG posts, please go HERE

HEY! After you read my post! (sheesh)

Man, judging by the thought for the day, that Thomas Wolfe sure knew what he was talking about, didn't he? I kid you not, while doing my current editing job, I sometimes spent days... I'm not exaggerating... DAYS...perfecting a scene until I was finally satisfied with its tone, rhythm, wording, and whatnot. Then I ended up deleting the whole darned thing. (sigh) C'est la vie. 

Okay, before answering this month's question, I'm going to share a post that first appeared in March, 2011 as Keeping it Real. I was a newbie blogger then, and it only got one lonely comment, so I figured it was safe to dust it off and pull it off the shelf again.


Thought for the day: Howcum noses run and feet smell?

Years ago,  late-night TV carried commercials that urged viewers to grab their credit cards, pick up their phones, and order their very own genuine faux pearls NOW! NOW! NOW!

Remember those ads? Hysterical, right? But at least nobody could say the advertisers didn't tell the truth. They didn't try to pretend those pearls were anything more than they were. Pretty fakes.

Now there's another new commercial that totally cracks me up. Now you TOO can own a genuine reproduction of the ring Prince William gave his fiancee! Wow! It features a beautiful genuine fake sapphire in the middle, surrounded by beautiful genuine fake diamonds! And get this! It even comes with its very own letter of authenticity! (Ohmigod, how can we possibly pass up a deal like that?)

But, again, at least they're telling the truth about it. Nothing shady here.

                                             They didn't put together a bunch of pretty rocks
                                              And try to pass them off as priceless gems.

As writers, it's up to us to create characters that are so realistic, so genuine, that readers accept them as the true gems we intend them to be. If our characters are predictable and two-dimensional, our product becomes nothing more than those genuine faux pearls they used to hawk on TV.

Based on the kazillions of books I've read, here's my thoughts on what it takes to make a character come alive for me. The two major points are:
  • A believable bad guy is never entirely bad. Thomas Harris' Hannibal Lector was one of the creepiest bad guys of all time, but he was also extremely intelligent and knew how to be quite charming. What magnifies the ick factor about a bad guy for me is when I can identify with him in some way, by either seeing something of myself, or someone I know, in him. Maybe he's a serial killer, but by God, he has to be home on Wednesday night to watch American Idol. He's a rapist, but he takes tender loving care of every stray cat in his neighborhood. He's a love 'em and leave 'em dude, but he visits his mother in the nursing home every Sunday afternoon.
  • By the same token, the good guy has to have some flaws to be believable. It's hard to sympathize with someone who comes across as perfect. Assuming we want the reader to care about the good guy, he needs to have idiosyncracies, or flaws, or simply has to screw up sometimes. It wouldn't hurt for that drop-dead gorgeous heroine with the perfect skin to get a zit every now and then. Or for the hunky guy with the abs of steel to break wind once in a while. Or to have a crooked nose, or heck! Let him pick his nose! One of my favorite heroines is Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum. She certainly isn't perfect, by any stretch of the imagination, but she sure is believable. And likeable.
That's just my three cents' worth. (Inflation.) How about you? Who's your favorite villain? Your favorite hero? Are they multi-dimensional? If not, what made them memorable for you?


[image courtesy of morguefile]
Now, then... on to the

Question of the month:  Have you ever surprised yourself with your writing? For example, by trying a new genre you didn't think you'd be comfortable with??

In a word... NO.

Wait! You didn't seriously think I was gonna stop there, did ya...?

Seriously, I'm terrible at surprising myself. (I stink at keeping secrets... I can't tickle myself, either...) However, it's equally surprising to stumble across something I wrote years ago and think, "Damn! That's pretty good!" as it is to read something I once considered terrific, only to discover it's become horrifyingly cringe-worthy.  (Surely, someone must have changed it!)

Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.