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Archive for December, 2019

Writers block


It seems I am mired in a funk. A writing funk. Just cannot find the link between my neural pathways and my fingers. Ideas and concepts swirl around inside my head but translating those into some coherent paragraph is impossible. Writers block. I have a brick wall that is higher than my ability to jump over it. A maginot line defends translation of ideas from the words that could articulate them. It is a maddening thing to be a writer and suffer thru such stoppage. Several projects sit in various stages still far from completion. Should I reflect on the decade soon to pass? Perhaps a long walk to clear the mind and draw fresh inspiration. I do believe that will be my action. Even though it is still quite dark outside I shall go and walk towards the east. Perhaps the coming dawn will somehow morph with me and show me which door to enter. Because right now, I’m in a tunnel and the only way out is to step forward toward the light.

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Some days you got it and some days you don’t. Today happens to be a don’t got it kind of day. As much as I have thought of something to post, it seems the mind is unwilling. Aside from the daily pages as per ‘The Artist’s Way’ morning writing exercise, I find I have nothing to share today. Except for this. I did buy a USB microphone and await delivery! Very much looking forward to recording my Friday newscast from the comfort and convenience of the home office instead of driving back and forth to the radio station in Picton. Who knows, this new device might even open a segue into a podcast! So, have an excellent day wherever you may be and I’ll see what tomorrow brings. Walk tall, think proud, have fun!

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More thoughts on change and the importance of living in the moment …. Raymond Carver, from the Paris Review Interviews Vol III

I can’t change anything now. I can’t afford to regret. That life is simply gone now, and I can’t regret its passing. I have to live in the present. The life back then is gone just as surely – it’s as remote to me as if it had happened to somebody I read about in a nineteenth-century novel. I don’t spend more than five minutes a month in the past. The past really is a foreign country, and they do do things differently there. Things happen. I really do feel I’ve had two different lives.

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Blue Collar Blues


My heart goes out to the dispossessed
who’ll never get to taste the best
that money buys.

The blue collar Joe’s, the men who work swings
the shift that only brings
fatigue.

I wonder if at Christmas time
these guys can even give a dime
to the kettle.

They drink domestic beer
it’s the affordable cheer
no imports here.

Free range turkey? Not a chance
of tasting fowl allowed to dance
on grassland.

A quick burger and fries to go
as he rushes to and fro
trying to clock in on time.

The bills keep piling on the counter
envelopes unopened they only bring
depressing news.

Blue collar blues.

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In 1983 Raymond Carver had this to say about writing and the tools at his disposal. It really reinforces my opinion that if you have something to say, there is no excuse in 2020 to not write. The tools we have today, would absolutely blow Raymond Carver’s mind! A writer can be his own editor, publisher and promoter. To borrow a phrase from the 80’s ‘Just do it’!

“Up at school there’s a typist who has one of those space-age typewriters, a word processor, and I can give her a story to type and once she has it typed and I get back the fair copy, I can mark it up to my heart’s content and give it back to her; and the next day I can have my story back, all fair copy once more. Then I can mark it up again as much as I want, and the next day I’ll have back a fair copy once more. I love it. It may seem like a small thing, really, but it’s changed my life, that woman and her word processor.” …. The Paris Review Interviews Vol III

Sitting at my space-age typewriter I know exactly what Raymond Carver meant! It is a luxury in today’s age, to be able to let the fingers fly and see words magically appear on a wide screen monitor ergonomically positioned at eye level. To use Spell-check and make corrections/changes. To cut and paste sentences from one part of the story to another. To zap a story to one’s blog. Presto. You are a published author. And the only cost was time. Thank you technology!

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I attended a Christian Christmas service this evening. In The County. And it was wonderful. Reverend Steve restored some calm and comfort in my life. The service touched all the right chords. The Reverend did not preach. He shared; his wisdom and insight about the inter relationship of faith. And community. Our Lord. Christianity. I daresay the time I spent in the warm confines of this church was sufficient to restore my faith. In humanity. In community. In all those things the Reverend touched upon. And like a Christmas miracle, toward the end of the service a lovely lady named Mary Elizabeth Parsons received a proposal of marriage from her partner! What a heart warming and noble gesture this was. I can’t imagine the gentleman was free from anxiety throughout the entire evening, having to hold off his public declaration of love for so long. But he must also have felt the calming and welcoming words of the Reverend and the Christmas story as retold in their own words by a flock of talented children. These kids felt no embarrassment at all in public speaking, a true testament to the relaxed and engaged environment this Church exudes. A solo piano performance by one of the youth. A masterful medley of Christmas melodies by the Church organist, interwoven with jazzy riffs. And of course, a candle lit Silent Night. I feel very fortunate to have partaken of this gathering of community. Merry Christmas to all and may the coming year bring you calm and comfort.

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‘A beautiful day in the neighborhood’. The further I got into watching this marvelous movie, the more deprived I felt. Deprived that I had not got a television in my childhood home until I was already in 7th grade. And by that time Mr. Rogers and his neighborhood did not have a very high priority in my soon to be active teenage life. But I’ll tell you this. This is a good movie. It will very likely be on Oscar’s list of movies up for awards. ‘A beautiful day in the neighborhood’ won’t go down in history as an awesome flick, but it is well worth the admission. I defy anybody to get through the entire movie without shedding some tears. I found my eyes watering on a couple occasions, the writing and the story is emotion stirring. And Tom Hanks capture Mr. Rogers as well as any actor could. I checked Youtube to get a flavor for the real Mr. Rogers. Tom Hanks nails it. The positivity that this show projected should make it mandatory viewing for all kids. Not once do you see Mr. Rogers snap at anybody. If I ever had to seek counsel from a psychologist this is the guy I would want to see. The jaded journalist (Matthew Rhys) who is assigned to do a profile on the show does his cynical best to belittle Mr. Rogers but the host (as portrayed by the inimitable Tom Hanks) naturally and effortlessly deflects all attempts to belittle his work on the show. And as the movie progresses, it becomes apparent that Mr. Rogers was in everyday life exactly as portrayed on the show. He is the embodiment of zen. A true Buddhist, able to live in the moment and find joy in every moment. It is a delight in watching and experiencing the evolution of all the characters who come to interact with Mr. Rogers. If you are having a bad hair day and in a cantankerous mood, I suggest heading for the theater and watching ‘A beautiful day in the neighborhood’. You will leave the theater with a big smile on your face. Cheers!

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Another wonderful description of writing by John Cheever as told in a 1976 interview with The Paris Review….

Cocteau said that writing is a force of memory that is not understood. I agree with this. Raymond Chandler described it as a direct line to the subconscious. The books that you really love give the sense, when you first open them, of having been there. It is a creation, almost like a chamber in the memory. Places that one has never been to, things that one has never seen or heard, but their fitness is so sound that you’ve been there somehow.

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Here’s another excerpt from my translation of Riho Sammalkivi’s war/gulag memoirs. Look for it in 2020 on Amazon or Lulu or Barnes & Noble. If you are a writer check out lulu.com on the net. You have no excuse for not publishing your writing as the age of internet self publishing provides all writers with the tools they need to get your word out there! If you enjoy the read please leave a comment. Cheers!

At twilight we arrived somewhere, both sides of the road covered with thick brush. Ahead of us, we signaled to three men who were traveling in the same direction. As we got closer it was apparent that one of them wore Czech zandarm insignia. They halted us, and asked my attendants who I was. They checked the travel document which one of the kids presented, and then one said they wanted to inspect my belongings. I explained that I had already been thoroughly searched and controlled. This did not satisfy them. One of them grabbed my knapsack and proceeded to dump the contents, another frisked me, taking first of all my wallet, pulling form it my backup paper money, which he then distributed between himself, his two accomplices and my attendants. Then he took form my back pocket my cigarette box, the cover of which was laid with gold plating and inscribed with messages from friends and the other side which was monogrammed also in gold. Apparently he did not have enough sense to understand its value; having turned it over several times he gave it back to me. In the meantime, the one who had dumped my knapsack had finished his work, came over to me and noticing my wedding band on the left ring finger tore it from my finger with brute force and stuffed it in his pocket. Then he jumped on his motorcycle, which had been hidden in the thicket and drove off, taking with him my knapsack and the entire contents, save for some worthless items, which he had left on the ground. Soon the zandarm also left and the remaining guy demanded that I take off my suit. He came over to help. I took from my pocket the cigarette box, planning to hide it in my palm. He saw this, and ripped it form my grasp, and looked it over once again. This time, having grasped its value, he stuffed it into his pocket. Having taken my suit, he gave it to one of my kid attendants, then he whispered something to the kids and then said with a strong voice so I could hear, “If he doesn’t behave, shoot him.”

They then commanded me to start moving, dressed solely in my underwear. It became very clear to me that I would not survive this alive, as the thugs had ordered them to shoot me any way. It was clear that they would not be accompanying me with me dressed only in underwear. I saw my wife’s picture on the ground, it had fallen from the writing materials, and I grabbed it and held it in my hand. Having stepped just a few steps forward, from behind me I heard the click of rifle safeties being unlocked and bullets being loaded. Now I waited, preparing to fall to the ground, shot through with bullets…..But what could this mean, I walked further ahead, why did they not shoot? Suddenly, my attendants, who had quietly stood aside as the thugs robbed me, and accepted their share, quickly came forward beside me. The one led the horse forward and the other told me to not be afraid, nothing bad was going to happen anymore. The third robber had by this time disappeared. What could this mean? Why did they not shoot me? Could they be taking pity on me? No, because it soon became clear that my saviour was another traveler who was visible coming over the field, directly at us and whom my kid attendants must have feared as a witness. The man came out to the road, went by us, turned once to look back with amazement no doubt as to why I was in my underwear and he continued on his way.

My attendants directed me once again to keep walking, but said nothing, I assume they were embarrassed; I also said nothing, what could I say?

Soon we arrived at another town, its signpost indicating “Obori”. I was led to the yard of the mayor. My attendants now were in quite a rush. They hurriedly handed over the travel documents, took a signature from me and from the farm owner to confirm I had been delivered and they disappeared down the road. I was speechless from this ordeal and unexpected turn of events, and struggled to gather my wits. I could see soviet soldiers in the farmyard. Soon there appeared from the farm house an officer, a short man who demanded to know what this circus meant, me being in underwear. Only now did the mayor also see fit to ask this same question. It was quite dark, but still very apparent that here I stood dressed only in under-shorts and t-shirt! I was directed to the farmhouse and the mayor also followed. By this time I had gathered my wits again, and started to explain the robbery. The “polkovnik” then spoke, explaining that this was highly irregular, directing the mayor to note on the travel documents, that a transported prisoner was not to be robbed of his personal belongings. He also presented to the mayor the task of finding the robbers and recovering my belongings. The mayor, or rather his wife, fed me and brought me to another farmhouse for the night, assigning my guard duty to some village folk.

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I read this intriguing comment by John Cheever while going thru Vol III of The Paris Review Interviews.

I don’t work with plots. I work with intuition, apprehension, dreams, concepts. Characters and events come simultaneously to me. Plot implies narrative and a lot of crap. It is a calculated attempt to hold the reader’s interest at the sacrifice of moral conviction. Of course, one doesn’t want to be boring…one needs an element of suspense. But a good narrative is rudimentary structure, rather like a kidney.

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