Saturday, December 31, 2011

Water Color

Happy New Year?

I'm sitting here in the early morning, sipping coffee and watching the pale sunlight reflect across the water, illuminating the island across on the other side with water colors.  How frikkin' poetic is that??
Anyway, of course my mind starts to wander (can't stay in the moment can we?) and I begin to reflect on the new year to begin at midnight and the old one that ends.  I jumped the gun a bit and already replaced my kitchen calendar with the new one that I had purchased a few weeks ago and have been anxious to open. (how sad is that?!).  As I took the old one down I found myself saying "goodbye" to 2011 and wondering if we should make some ritual of the transition.  Perhaps we should burn the old one in protest?  But the pictures are so beautiful I'm not sure I can bring myself to do it.  I started to scan through them again, reminiscing (I'm always so proud of myself when I spell that word correctly the first time without seeing the inevitable red squiggly line indicating that I'm a spelling moron!).  January, February, March, April, May.  May.  May 23rd to be exact.  "Victoria Day" in British Columbia.  I wonder how they celebrate it.  I sure went out with a bang!  One day changes the whole gig.

Back to the whole new year thing.  I've been thinking off and on lately about what it is about the new year:  why is it that when we have a pretty rotten year we look forward to the new year as if magically, on that first day, we can say goodbye to the rottenness of the previous year and hello to a fresh new start? What makes life any different going from one day to the next?  It is just another day in time.

Time.  The clock is ticking and with each tick about 1/3 of a second passes (it ticks fast!).  Time passes.  Time also marches on.  It sometimes races although it has been known to stand still.  It waits for no man (or woman).  For some people, time is money. (Ben Franklin)  It (unfortunately) brings all things to pass. (AESCHYLUS)
Time is a train
Makes the future the past
Leaves you standing in the station
Your face pressed up against the glass
U2, "Zoo Station" 
Wow!  That's a crowd pleaser! (BTW: "pleaser" was not in my blogger dictionary. Interesting...)  The reality is that we don't seem to be able to help ourselves.  Perhaps it is intrinsic in the term "new" that we feel optimism, if only for  a day.  Soon enough it becomes painfully apparent that the "old" year is still trailing us like toilet paper stuck to our shoes.  But for now...happy new year.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Scene of the Crime

The Write Stuff

So...having bought into the fact that I get my best ideas when I'm walking or otherwise occupied in something nowhere near a computer or even a pen and paper I have had to resort to other means of recording ideas and random thoughts.  I cannot rely on my mind to remember.  I know, I know, I said that I am a writer in my mind and therefore you might think that all the ideas floating around in my mind would be well-stored there where I could access them at a moment's notice.  Unfortunately, this is not the case.  What really transpires is that an idea POPS into my head and if I do not grab it at that moment it just as quickly POPS back out, as if my brain were just a train station in the middle of nowhere in which the passengers (i.e. writing ideas) hop off for a quick trip to the bathroom or to buy something at the vending machine and then hop back on before the train pulls out of the station.

Anyway, back to my dilemma.  No computer, no pen and paper when my best ideas come so what to do?  Technology to the rescue!  I have an iPhone and I will use it!  Let's see, I have an app called "Evernote" denoted by an elephant icon.  It's a handy little thing that let me record audio notes wherever I am.  Perfect!  Problem is, I remember to record the ideas but I forget to retrieve them when I am sitting in front of my computer!  Case in point: I have notes in there dating back nearly 3 years already!!!  Gee whiz!  Admittedly part of the problem is my lousy memory (I'd only like to think that it bad due to my stroke this year but to try to sell that notion would be dishonest.).  The other problem is that the notes are spoken recordings which means they have to be transcribed.  I am not good at transcription.  So, the notes stay safely in Evernote, forever!

Might be easier if I just write them down in the first place.  Could use Evernote but don't need to.  The iphone comes with a handy little yellow "legal" pad, a utilitarian but app with no whistles and bells but an honest, trustworthy method of recording everything from a grocery list to that amazing wine I had in Brooklyn that I want to try to find at home.  Perfect home for "random thoughts."  Oh, you mean like this one? A quote you found in May 2010, 588 days ago?? (not only does it keep track of your notes but it handily attaches the date and time you wrote them and keeps tabs on how many days have passed since you wrote them!  Not sure how this is helpful except to point out the extent to which you procrastinate!)

"Why don't you indulge in a more sophisticated software?  Download Dragon Dictation!" (where do they get these app names?  I mean, I guess I sorta get "Evernote" as in forEver Noted but since when do dragons and dictation go together?  Oh, wait, I think I know!  In my younger years I was introduced to the concept of the "dragon lady" in a corporate setting.  "Dragon ladies" are those women who have been with the company forever, watching others come and go as if through a revolving door, not so much because they are just too indispensable for the company to fire them but more because they are too scary to fire!  It's just best to let them be, as one would when one encounters a sleeping dragon.  In the meantime, they make life miserable for the rest of the support staff!  Anyway, dragon ladies are often found in executive assistant roles in which one might expect that they would at times be called upon to take dictation.  Perhaps this is the genesis of the app name???)

Well, not wanting to appear provincial, I do download Dragon Dictation but I should have known better.   You see, mine is not a voice that marries well with dictation technology.  Let me demonstrate:  a few years ago we were with a health insurance company whose phone system was annoyingly only navigable via voice.  In other words, you didn't have the option of either "saying or texting" your information.  One day I spent at least 3 frustrating minutes, first speaking politely and rationally, then shouting irrationally the date of my birth into the phone to no avail!  "You said: 'April 3, 1969.' Is that correct?" "No!  Marrrrrccccchhhhh thirrrrty-firrrrsssstttt, nineteeeeeeen fiftyyyy eighttttt!"  "You said: 'May 22, 1955.' Is that correct?" "Aaaaaaagggggghhhhhh!!!!!"  After at least 3 minutes she offered, "I'm sorry, I still didn't get that. ("No shit, Sherlock!!!") Let me transfer you to a human being who is capable of understanding your Mickey Mouse little voice."  So, when I dictate the dragon a sentence I wrote above, "You see, mine is not a voice that marries well with technology." the dragon comes back with "you see mine is not a place that Marys well the dictation Knology"  Knology?!  Knology?!  What the hell is "Knology"?!  See what I mean?? I know, I know, in order for the program to work optimally I must speak slowly and loudly and over-enunciate my words.  Whatever!  Did I mention that my brain doesn't hold onto thoughts long?  By the time I am a third of the way dictating my thoughts at glacial speed through a megaphone the other two-thirds of the thoughts have dissipated and the people around me think that I'm either a crazy person or one of those annoying people who thinks that the listener, for whom English is not the first language, will understand what he/she is saying if he/she only repeats it ever louder and slower!

Well, crap.  I'm back at square one.  Which was...where was I?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Need More Proof?

The evidence that I am only a writer in my mind is strengthened by the dismal truth that I own--and have started--at least 6 journals in my adult years but have only written 1 or 2 pages in each.  Don't get me wrong; my intention is not to collect journals like some people collect salt & pepper shakers.  My intention has always been to actually write in them, to record my thoughts, reflections, hopes, dreams, etc.  But the road to you-know-where is paved with good you-know-whats!  I would say that the problem is that I have my most prolific litterateur moments when I am no where near a pen and paper or word processing program. Once I do return to that opportune place the extraordinary storm of ideas that I had begins to quickly dissipate like a dream that was once so vivid but in the retelling the details evaporate. Or like cotton candy which appears to have no substance the moment it touches moisture and heat.

If I set aside time to write my mind is frequently devoid of any literary thought.  It is as though the very sight of a computer screen has the effect of wiping clean the creative portion of my brain.  I might as well be embarking on a class in astrophysics...

If only I could get down in writing all the amazing text that is floating around in my mind...

Monday, December 12, 2011

Rainy Days and Mondays...

I'm beginning to think that Monday should be an official part of the weekend.  It turns out to be a pretty non-productive day for me after all and probably could be missed without notice.  Feeling like a slug today.  I'm sure that homo sapiens sapiens used to hibernate during the cold months and I'm not sure why we would have evolved out of that habit--clearly only part way.  Because although in practice we don't still hibernate, clearly my body is fighting against that idea.  It wants to hibernate in the worst way.  Or at least curl up with a good book--ok, or Nook!--in front of the fire on the sofa with a quilt or afghan (BTW, does anyone know why in God's name we call it an "afghan"??) for the next 4 months!  I should be writing more but my brain is trying to go into hibernation as well.  So...I offer up an excerpt from one of my ongoing writing projects:

THE SKIPPER CHRONICLES        by Anna Porter

BOOK ONE:  Skipper Finds a Home

Screech!  Honk!!  Rumble!  Cars veered dangerously close to the small tan and white puppy as he tried to run between them to safety.  He was scared, hungry and lonely.  He sniffed at a paper bag blown down the street by a warm breeze, but there was nothing inside it to eat. Maybe he would find some scraps at the little cafetin around the corner.

Manuel greeted the puppy at the back door of the cafetin.  “Buenos diás, pequeño sato!  How about a bone?”  The puppy’s mouth watered.  He hadn’t eaten for two days.  He edged close enough to grab the bone in his teeth, before dashing away to avoid the reach of Manuel’s hand.  He couldn’t take a chance, even though the young cantina worker seemed nice enough.  Plenty of other times he had been struck or kicked by humans so he tried to avoid their reach.  “You must learn to trust,” called Manuel after him, “if you are going to survive.”

The puppy raced away with his prize.  Hungry as he was, he couldn’t stop until he found a safe place away from the crowds and traffic.  He saw a woman approaching some stray dogs on the sidewalk.  It looked like she was offering them some food.  The puppy kept going.  Around the corner was a vacant lot where he found the perfect place to eat and rest among the litter and weeds.  He had just settled down to his feast when out from behind some garbage lurched Brutus.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Encountering Angels

Okay, I don't really care what--if any--spiritual beliefs you have but all of us have encountered "angels," sometimes--perhaps most times--without ever knowing it.  I know I have.  I'm not talking about the sappy, cute, winged angels that invade every gift store or stationery store or all those annoying emails that people forward to you that have this lovely, sweet message until you get to the end and then you get threatened with "if you don't forward this to as many people as you know in the next 5 minutes you'll have the worst luck you could ever imagine!"  I'm talking about the real thing.  I'm talking about angels who have no idea that they are angels, they just are.

Rachael is an angel. She will deny to your face I'm sure but it is true. Rachael is my son's darling, diminutive, funny, bright, Jewish girlfriend.  I especially mention the fact that she is Jewish for a reason.  Last weekend when they were here we talked briefly about Christmas and she mentioned that she would love to decorate for Christmas because, frankly, she's not had a lot of experience at that and even though she was Jewish she loves the whole idea of Christmas and decorations, etc.  What makes her an angel is that she WANTS to help me.  And that is a big deal to me having suffered a stroke 6 months ago.  I was thinking that decorating for Christmas was out of the question (I can't carry boxes of decorations up and down stairs, etc.) since my family is just REALLY not into that stuff.  But Rachael is.  And she WANTS to help me and because of her I will be able to decorate for Christmas which is something I LOVE to do, in a big way.  And because of that little gesture, Rachael is an angel to me.  That's all it takes.

Friday, December 2, 2011

What's with the background photo?

I know it's a bit indistinct but it's a very special picture.  My lovely--and quite talented--daughter, Mattie, took it on her trip in 2010 to Berlin.  The subject is an unusual monument to literature: a subterranean sculpture (visible through a Plexiglas cover) of empty bookshelves, large enough to hold the 20,000 tomes that were burned during the Nazi occupation on May 10, 1933.  Designed by Micha Ullman, an Israeli sculptor and professor of art, it sits below the Bebelplatz, a public square infamously known as the site of the Nazi book burning. A bronze plaque on the sculpture bears a quote by Heinrich Heine: “Where books are burned in the end people will burn.”

It seems serendipitous that we should have chosen this photo for my blog which launched the same week that it was announced that Ray Bradbury had consented to allowing his 1953 classic, Fahrenheit 451 to be published in e-book format.  Carolyn Kellogg of the LA Times wrote of the release: The irony of releasing an e-book edition of a novel built around the death of print books was not lost on Bradbury, which is why he resisted the e-book idea. The Associated Press reports that the author was dismissive of the form, saying that e-books "smell like burned fuel." Bradbury, a noted futurist who at one time was a consultant for NASA, told the New York Times in 2009 that the Internet is "meaningless; it's not real.... It's in the air somewhere."

I must admit that I, like Mr. Bradbury, was resistant to the idea of an electronic book.  I like real books, paper and ink and cardboard and glue. Books crackle when you first open a new one.  The pages rustle.  They show wear--"dogears" and spilled coffee and underlining and notes in the margins, the patina of books.  Like The Velveteen Rabbit the more wear they show the more real they become. I know they are not necessarily eco-friendly, requiring precious wood and usually toxic inks and glues for their assembly.  But they are real.  And real is seems to be slowly fading from the vernacular the more technological we become.

If I ever get a book "published" I want it to be real.  I want to be able to hand it to someone as a gift, to set it on a shelf.  Imagine the Bebelplatz in 1933 if books had been in digital form...

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

What's in my Mind?

Well, that's a tough one.  You see, the whole point of my blog title is that I have all these great ideas and thoughts that would make, I think, for great writing but there they are and there they'll stay.  For some reason, translating into writing what is floating around in my mind is a bit like trying to remember a dream upon waking or trying to keep cotton candy from melting.  The words dissipate as quickly as I snatch for them.

I wrote in my "About Me" that "I do some writing."  You'll notice that I didn't write that I "love" writing (as I did about other pastimes) nor did I write that I "like" writing.  I "do" writing.  "Some."  I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with writing:  the muse "loves" to torment me and I "hate" to succumb.  Why?  Because hard as I might, what I write is never as amazing as what I think (at least I like to think so).  And so, I answer, like a fool, the summons.  Not like Samuel answering the call of God in the middle of the night, ready and confident with a "Speak Lord, your servant is listening." More like Charlie Brown once again falling (literally) for Lucy's invitation to kick the football wrapped in promises to not pull the ball away which are never kept.  No matter how many times Lucy breaks that promise, Charlie Brown is compelled to kick the football.  No matter how many times the Muse deserts me, I am compelled to write.

Perhaps you might be compelled to read?  At least out of pity?