Monthly Archives: December 2013

Know What Words Mean

I’ll leave it to you lot for posting hopeful messages about the New Year and all that lovely business, your words likely accompanied by pretty nature scenes or something. Well done. Cheers. I’m going to close out 2013 in typical cantankerous fashion, however, with one final gripe about bad writing. You wouldn’t have it any other way, would you?

winter warlock

In the futile quest to fill the bottomless pit that is the Internet with content, web sites crank out material faster than staff writers and freelancers can think about what they are writing. And when you don’t think about what you are writing, you fall back on rote terms and clichéd expressions. Rote terms and clichéd expressions = rubbish.*

*Sorry, I’ve been watching BBC shows all night and am feeling rather English.  I’m 1/8, you know. Chap.

Today’s example is brought to you by all the writers who reported this week that Good Morning America anchor Robin Roberts “officially” came out as gay. I must have read that word in over twenty headlines on various entertainment and news sites: Officially.

Robin Roberts came out as gay by mentioning her girlfriend on a Facebook post.

Folks, “officially” does not mean “in public.” Unless we apply special settings, every Facebook comment, blog post, and tweet—from every one of us—is public. Facebook comments can also be called informal. “Informal” and “official” are not alike at all. Since Ms. Roberts never used the words, “I’m gay,” and we are left with mere implication via context, I’d say she unofficially came out. Even the most skeptical of you should agree with me that “unofficial” and “official” are most certainly not synonyms.

For her statement to be official, Robin Roberts would have to be an elected or appointed government official, a bank, a corporation, law-enforcement organization, or a publicly owned or funded entity or agency issuing a formal statement. You could also get away with reporting, for example, that an athlete “officially” announced her retirement if she does so through a public statement or a press conference, though the o-word is at the very least redundant in that scenario, since “announced” is sufficient.

A Facebook post from an individual hinting at something through context is none of those things.

Thank you. We now return you to your regularly scheduled merriment. Good day to you.

Bah Humbug.

Advertisements

In Memoriam: WordPress Blogger Bryan Edmondson

Bryan21965-2013

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

With great sadness I report that fellow writer, WordPress blogger, and friend Bryan S. Edmondson has died after a 6-year battle with cancer. Bryan created content for several blogs over the years, including “Weird Dude,” “Noodle Toes,” and “Monkey Wrench,” and he was becoming quite involved in video production when the final, terminal phase of his sickness struck several months ago.

His sense of humor was unique, bizarre, and not-at-all appropriate for those easily offended… which means he cracked me up more times than I can count. Even in the grip of stage-4 melanoma and the grueling medical treatments that go with it, Bryan never stopped sending me hysterical, off-color emails. Every time one of his messages appeared ready to drift into sentimentality, he’d yank the chair away with a shocking punchline and make me fall on my butt, laughing.

Bryan was one of my select beta readers as well, as I was for him, and we frequently exchanged ideas and suggestions about the craft. His writing style leaned toward the Gothic imagery of Poe and Lovecraft, and, for such a funny guy, he could create some pretty dark, hellish settings and scenes. He disparaged his own writing as detail heavy and old fashioned, but he created such vivid images in ways I could never imagine. I’m sure, if not for his long illness, he would have been prolific and found an eager audience ready to explore his dark labyrinths full of demons, shadows, and mystery.

The last thing Bryan would want is a mushy send-off, so, in that spirit…

Cheers, my friend. You will be missed.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Horrible Holiday Haiku!

killer santa

In the tradition of my Worst Christmas Story Ever Written post from last year, I bring you a batch of all new, never before seen Heinously Horrid Holiday Haiku. Whereas last time I went out of my way to write something awful, today’s holiday offering is naturally occurring  bad poetry. In other words, with me and poetry, this is as good as it gets!

Enjoy (or suffer):

Joy in giving gifts

Just don’t use a credit card

Digits could be hacked

***

“Santa Claus is white”

Opines one Megyn Kelly

Jesus must be, too

***

Christmas carols rock

They can even melt the hearts

Of heathens like me

***

I must disagree

That gift cards make cheesy gifts

Amazon is fine

***

Dear Senator Paul,

Mr. Scrooge ain’t a hero

In the beginning

***

Making merry time

Where are you, Martha Stewart?

Tell me what to do

***

Lucas rolls in cash

Even after 40 years

Kids want Star Wars toys

***

Long the naughty list

After all, what kid is good?

It’s all relative

***

“A War on Christmas!”

They cry for a day that was

Stolen from pagans

***

Lovely Christmas tree

Though not quite spiritual

It’s made of plastic

*

**

****

********

*************

******************

*************************

*******************************

**************************************

***

***

***

Happy Holidays, whichever one you celebrate!


Music vs. Writing

If my grandfather were alive, he would look at this and ask me, "So who took your picture?"

If my grandfather were alive, he would look at this and ask me, “So who took your picture?”

This post is going to degenerate into another “I hate writing rules” rant. I can feel it in me bones!

[Who knew old bones were sensitive to not just to changing weather but also to one’s own bad attitude? Old bones make excellent bludgeons by the way (especially femurs), though I believe I’m drifting off topic.]

I’ve been playing in bands or at least engaged in some kind of music project on and off for almost three decades. I’ve recorded in professional studios and performed on many stages before all kinds of audiences. The only “rules” I remember hearing are: 1.) Practice a lot, and 2.) Listen to different kinds of music, not just the style you play. Granted, I don’t read musician blogs (are there any?), but that seems like a stark contrast to the massive volume of writing advice and rules heaped upon us daily. It’s alarming how many ways I am failing as a writer.

I’m particularly negligent when it comes to “reading in my genre.” Partly because I don’t know what genre I’m in (is Twilight Zonish a genre?), and partly because, beyond my desire to be entertained and moved by good storytelling, I don’t care what other writers are writing. I’m a bad student, I know.

“Listen to all different kinds of music” is fantastic advice… much better than, “Listen to all the bands that play the same style of music you do.” Absorbing the tones, rhythms, and textures of jazz, metal, soul, reggae, classical, disco, punk, and blues music has made me so much better of a rock musician than if I’d been admonished to listen to the other rock bands to see what they‘re doing! Writing songs comes from the heart and soul, not from carefully tracking trends, as should writing prose.

Sure, no one said only read in your genre. But I’d go as far as to say, “Deliberately read outside your genre. Bring something unique when you come back.”

[Before you hurl some “apples and oranges” comment toward the stage (I’m specifically addressing Mr. Frutman in the aisle seat on the left, row 7), I don’t like apples or oranges and am therefore impervious to your cliché. Arguments about illogical thinking, on the other hand, might carry some weight.]

Look at that! I made my point in under 400 words. Who loves you?

hamster band

__________________________

I’ve been podcast again! To relive the excitement of my post on cringe-inducing books, this time with a professional voiceover specialist, click here.


Libraries vs. Criminals

Look. I'm one of those bloggers who decorates his posts with generic book stack images!

Look. I’m one of those bloggers who decorates his posts with generic book stack images!

How to tell if you live in a good neighborhood: Type the name of your county into the Google search box and see what autofills.

The very first autofill for my county is “… library system.” I’m gratified by that result, which is a preferable one to “… crime statistics” or “… murder rate” or “… piranha attacks on land.” Our county has 10 libraries, which sounds like a lot, but with a population of 325,000, that’s over 30,000 people per library. Still, it’s the number one thing on people’s minds when they do a Google search. Either our serial killers are remarkably discrete and our land piranhas travel out of the area to feed, or the people around here a generally good lot who would rather read books than steal cars.

See, libraries fight crime.

No one but the dumbest of criminals would try to rob a library, because there’s no cash on hand (unless you consider not paying late fees to be a form of backhanded robbery). Not a single library in the United States or Canada has ever lowered nearby property values. And I’ve never heard of a kid who didn’t enjoy going to a public library. In the kids’ section of my local branch, you’ll always find at least one starry-eyed child wandering up and down the rows, dazzled by all the choices.

You know where there are not a lot of libraries? Crime-ridden towns. People and governments give up on crime-ridden towns because giving up is easier than fixing. Libraries in poor towns are amongst the first things to be chopped in budget-cutting sessions. Those kids don’t get to wander up and down the free (!) library, gazing in wonder anymore. Maybe they can hang out on the street corner instead.

You know, if everyone in my county tossed in 20 bucks, we’d have 6.5 million dollars. Surely that’s enough to keep one library in one rough town somewhere opened for at least a year or two. Is that so appalling, giving up 20 dollars to invest in someone else’s future?

One of my local libraries. It looks dangerous, but it's kinda nice on the inside.

One of my local libraries. It looks dangerous, but it’s kinda nice on the inside.

Note: The median household income in my town (a postage stamp on the large envelope that is my county) is $120,000. If you took my 510-unit apartment complex out of the mix, you’d probably see that figure rise to 200K or more. I know the property tax burden is high. It’s expensive to live here. I also see as many late-model Audis, BMWs, and Benzes crowding the streets as I do Hyundais and Chevys. How about it, folks? Why the outrage over helping feed poor kids?