Category Archives: Nonfiction

Out of the Draft Box, Part 4: Haiku Today 2015.10.23 —

autumn leaves
(Image credit: Phoenix Wolf-Ray)

falling leaves
wash the ground with death
in color —
unseasonable
as it’s been lately


Here it is, the last post in my draft box. These drafts were nice jump-starts to posts, having a haiku to roll around in my mind while I’m writing out whatever happens to be streaming from my consciousness at the moment. Though I can’t say what I was thinking at the exact moment that I was writing this tanka, I do know that at the time I was starting to figure out that manufacturing was going to eventually do me in.

And by that, I mean to say that I had recognized my folly in thinking that I would ever see any kind of relief from the soul-crushing work schedule I had been subject to whilst working at the Bobcat plant here in Bismarck. This plant had shut down in 2008, just a few months after I relocated here from Detroit, and at the time it was a Union shop. I was told my only way in was to know someone and at the time I really didn’t know anyone. So when the plant re-opened quietly under subcontracted management (Bobcat’s way of snuffing out organized labor, I suppose) I was able to slip in and almost instantly find more gainful employment than what I’d been doing in the interim; but they worked the hell out of us.

When I first started, they had just set up the fab shop. We had some brake presses, a laser, a plasma cutter, a saw, a lathe, and a couple of vertical machine centers. They had us working twelve hours a day, five days a week, and ten hours on Saturday, making parts to feed the weld lines. And for years, they told us they’d cut back hours when we caught up, but we never really caught up. We clamored for years for pay increases that were promised and never delivered.

So at the time I wrote this tanka I was almost three and a half years in, and thinking that one day I was going to just jump into my lathe and let the machine pulverize me.

Of course I wouldn’t do anything like that; but I’m sure we understand that when things get dark, the imagination goes wild.

This is the darkness that pulled me away from writing. I turned to escapist routes to keep me from getting dragged down. I played a lot of video games, I watched a lot of TV, knit a lot of hats, and tried to think hard about what I was doing.

I realized at the time that my folly was in falling to the sunk-cost fallacy of my facile choice to be a fabricator. And it took me another year and a half to feel comfortable enough to extract myself from the situation.

So the question is, where does this particular folly end?

How do I know I’m not making the same mistake right now?

I probably am, and now I wonder whether my folly was in thinking that it was my career choice that was sucking all the joy out of life.

More likely, it was my choice of employer; could I be repeating that folly even now — just going from one disaster to the next? What comes after this, then?

(Image credit: suRANTo dwi saputra, CC0 1.0)

Where did the horror go, anyway?

(Image credit: rtaylor111, CC PDM 1.0)

The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.” That is the first line of what is likely my favorite from a long list of works by an author so well-known in my lifetime that in my mind, he carries this torch. Genre fiction author Stephen King — best known for his horror, but indeed he has touched so many genres it’s not fair to pigeonhole him as a “horror author as such” — is someone that inspires me, and not just because he wrote some books that I have enjoyed.

When I was younger, I was a huge fan of this guy. People in my high school classes would remark that I came in with a different book every day, and that’s largely due to King. I devoured his works. I kept a list of his novels, which ones I’d already read, and I visited local libraries frequently to try to score the ones that I hadn’t gotten to yet. I wrote a few fan letters, got a few form letters back in return . . . I get how that works. No big deal.

When I read his nonfiction book On Writing, that’s when I got a real window into who the man was. I mean, he never left us lacking for insight in the forewords and afterwords he wrote in his novels, and I always read those too. King was one of those authors who could make a connection to the Dedicated Reader with just a page or two of his own sincere words, and so I anticipated with On Writing, I’d get more of that with some amazing advice about writing . . . and a good sense of how the indefatigable King pumped out work after work, winner after winner.

It turns out, however, that On Writing was part autobiography, talking about King’s early years writing, as an English teacher, coming to terms with alcoholism (having written some of his best works on the bottle,) and once getting past that it seems he didn’t skip a beat but kept on going. The man was hit by a van and almost died. I almost gave up hope on the chances that King would live to finish the Dark Tower series, the one that began with that line about the gunslinger chasing the man in black. Not only did he come back from that but he kept on writing. Took that lickin’ and kept on tickin’.

These days, it feels like the horror genre as I knew it has slipped out the back door. It’s not what it used to be at its zenith, and sometimes we get a taste of the old days in film and tv, but King still writes stuff that speaks to me even if people still treat his old stuff like it’s camp. Not that I’ve picked up a book in the past decade. Having the opportunity to do that while operating in the modern paradigm . . . that’s unfathomable to me right now. But I do listen to audiobooks, and so the written word is not entirely wasted on me; these days I can pump those words right into my earholes while I’m busy adulting.

So yes, I still admire King. I admire that he’s still out there telling stories, even after all he’s been through. And even if one day he gives up that torch, it might well be taken up by Joe Hill: an author in his own right, and not just King’s son.

At the end of the day, I want to tell stories too. I’m not sure if anyone will think they’re worth paying for, but sometimes that’s not what it’s about.

Sometimes you just have to explore.

(Image credit: sjpowermac, CC0 1.0)

Dust storms and the desertification of the literary mind

DUST STORM 1968
Image credit: Sydney Oats (CC BY 2.0)

Storms. Storms in my head! I thought that I could do a little throwback Thursday or something. I would go back through some of my older posts and repost one of them to get a sense of where I once was but it’s only come to frustration because I realize that once upon a time the downpour of words that bombarded the page was so different than the sparsity that I struggle to ration out lately. I read it and I think, where the heck did that come from?

Check out Getting Rich and the Tribble Epidemic, from December 28, 2013.

I sounded so glib.

Today, by comparison, I think my prose has dried out somewhat. As though a sandstorm has come through and blasted my creativity down to bare metal.Maybe that’s what it feels like to come back to writing after a long period of no-writing. Or maybe something has changed. The thunderbolts of inspiration don’t just light up my brain like they used to.

But for whatever reason I can’t seem to give up altogether. Every time I think about hanging it up — admitting that my writing is just another fad, a fly-by-night hobby — there’s something inside that won’t let it go, and when I look back I see what it is that I must be holding on to. I would like to think that perhaps some day I can find my way back to writing long form, the off-the-cuff essays, the flash fiction — to being, and moving forward from, the bedazzling literary cyclone that I must have been.

I actually work really hard on this. And maybe I’m a little too aggressive, because here I am the next morning trying to finish this reconstruction of my feelings about this on a screen when I could be doing other things, things that I also feel I need to do . . . but they must not be as important as this. Even though I have to go running and then go to work in a little bit.

Because when it comes down to it I guess I have to write.

Can I bring life back to the desert?

Desert Life
Image credit: Wiros (CC BY-SA 2.0)


Do you need to seed the clouds of creativity in your mind? Maybe try the one-word prompt from the Daily Post — you could do worse!

Haiku Today 2015.03.27 — The Absurdity of the Religious Right

(Image credit: Neil Williamson)

the long view
between these two worlds:
quiescent

 


Today is a wonderful Friday, because I’m not at work and I have time to write and read and do things!

  1. I got up,
  2. put on legitimate pants (I’m thinking about making that a habit,)
  3. ate a piece of leftover pizza,
  4. downed my seasonal-change cocktail of vitamins, Tylenol® Sinus, and allergy pill;
  5. put on coffee,
  6. shaved my whiskers,
  7. paid some bills,
  8. and did a little of the Facebook thing.

Now on to some real blogging.

How do you feel when someone tries to push their values on you? Does that stick in your craw, or what? I know it does mine. Speaking of the Facebook thing, I was answering comments (that’s often all I do — only occasionally do I share relevant posts or update my status) when I happened to notice this little tidbit in my news feed:

Read the full story at the Phoenix New Times:

There’s this Senator in Arizona who suggested that the law should mandate weekly church attendance!

Yay! (blows a raspberry)

U.S Postage Stamp, 1957
(Image: Wikipedia)

Now, I hope you are all aware that I almost never talk religion or drop the “G-word”, but let’s discuss this. Put aside for a moment the absolute certainty that no such law would ever see the light of day due to the fact that this is a flagrant violation of the American ideals of religious freedom and the separation of church and state; in fact, I think every politician in their right mind knows that this is a non-starter.

Forget that the whole idea would be unworkable due to matters of logistics: how do you account for attendance? How do you enforce it? How do you define a religion? Wouldn’t you have to make room for atheists who would rather meet at the library, the bar, or the bowling alley to get their church cards signed? At that point, the whole thing falls apart. It becomes a waste of time and money — yet another drain on the intrepid taxpayer.

A Clockwork Orange
(Image: Wikipedia)

Putting all that aside, this idea that we should be obliged by law to attend church is like a series of slaps to the face, because coupled with her idea that this would lead to a moral rebirth it suggests that without religion we are amoral. It equates all of us — every citizen of the United States of America — with violent, antisocial criminals. It suggests that all of us need to be rehabilitated in some way, as though religion can program us to be something the government considers acceptable (here’s a crazy idea – let’s make a food pyramid . . . but for religiosity! That sounds awesome!) What’s not ironic here is that this idea comes up alongside nostalgic commentary about times when people kept their guns out in plain sight in unlocked cars, thus linking the imagery of guns to religion, and the compulsion thereto.

–> Let’s not forget that religion was more than just window-dressing for a vast majority of wars worldwide prior to the 20th century; it was a pretext for empire-building, meaning that religion has always been the standard tool for conquest on every scale.

— > Let’s not forget that religion often limits freedom on a much larger scale than laws do, to a point where most people find it impossible to take it seriously in modern society — not that they don’t try. Were that possible, we would likely have more clergy than soldiers.

–> Let’s not forget that the most zealous advocates of major faiths tend to be the most hypocritical. Killing in the name of love? That’s not a song, folks; that’s a historically world-shaping paradigm.

–> Let’s not forget that reason and science have founded an age where people can think for themselves, can sort out right and wrong without the threat of eternal damnation hanging over their heads — who wants that kind of stress anyway?

Don’t get me wrong — I’m not trying to slam religion or church attendance. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to find community with like-minded individuals who share faith with you. What really rankles me is when someone talks about shoving that down everyone’s throat with legislation. I live by a code, and one principle I live by is that I don’t oppress people with my own ideas. Like anyone, I am glad to put my ideas and opinions out there — but to try and force agreement? That’s a poor way to treat others, especially in such an open society. It’s never worked for me and I hate to see it in action because it is oppression.

Somewhere in the middle ground between pure anarchy and the iron fist of a totalitarian state there exists a spot of perfect balance, where the clockwork of society ticks in perfect synchrony; I think if power-players on the extremes would stop arguing about where that point should be, those of us who would like to live our own lives in peace would be much better off!

To those people who like to step on others in order to reach higher, be forewarned: if I see that happening, I will take that as a sign from above to come over and knock you down.

Take that and stick it in your law books.


Now this is something I can get behind –> 10 Things I Wish Everyone Knew About Universal Unitarianism by Galen Guengerich

(Daily Post Prompt: I Walk the Line | Header image by Alan Levine)

Regal, but not respected: my life as a predator

Not a cowardly lion
(Photo credit: Saucy Salad) (Lion says, “I’ll give YOU a saucy salad.”)

I work my tail off.

That’s not to say I’m not having fun sometimes, but really – okay, so my tail isn’t really falling off, but it has narrowly escaped a few near-manglings; one time it was almost chomped off by a sneaky old crocodile! I don’t know if they realize that I can’t grow the tail back, or that I need to keep it. My tail is part of what makes me fast and efficient.

Most don’t realize that I am fast and efficient, or so hard-working; they complain that all I do is lie around in the sun all day. Do they not realize how much heat I generate just by moving around? When it comes to eating around here, it’s catch as catch can, and oftentimes we eat just once every few days. So we eat a lot at once, and we try to save our energy for when we need it most. I’m trying to carry about thirty kilos of impala in my guts for up to half the week. Even then, we still have to worry about buffalo.

Don’t cross the buffalo; we’re told that literally the day we’re born. I remember my mother licking me clean, saying “don’t cross the buffalo, whatever you do. They’re easily confused, and meaner than Catholic school nuns”; so we avoid them like the plague, and they end up hating us because they think we’re snobs. Now that I’m old enough to understand where we’re going wrong in this whole situation, it’s really too late to do anything about it. It’s a vicious cycle, if you’ll pardon the cliche; and if it’s not buffalo it’s rhinos. If it’s not rhinos its crocs, or hyenas, or those bloody tsetse flies.

And don’t even get me started on elephants and humans. The intelligentsia of the animal world, the primates and the pachyderms; they’re just as bad as the rest, just as clueless to their intended roles.

No, I get a bad rap. We get a bad rap. Others, they think it’s all fun and tans and laying in the sand all day, but that’s really not it. Their thought processes are like radio static. “Look mate,” I say, “you just don’t get how much we have to work. All that laying around is hard work, love. You think we’re being lazy all day but you don’t stick around to see what happens when a zebra gets too close to where I’m lying in wait. Being the King, it’s not all fun and games, sometimes you have to wake up and smell the territorial markings, and that’s hard work too. It’s all about patience, vigilance, and above all, respect for the proper order of things. Sure, you’re safe now, but what are you – ten, twelve inches from my paws? I dare you to come and say it to my face.”

I’d challenge any one of them to spend a few days in my paws; that’s all I’m saying.


This post was prompted by this week’s What If? Writing Challenge. What if you gave it the old college try?

What if? Weekly writing challenge

Trifextra: Week 79 – Shadows

[ changó ] / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Waiting for the bus –
Stander,
Loner,
Lounger.
Same venue,
Different lives moving in different directions.
Destined to disappear
Into days of violence and silence –
Digital footprints
Just shadows,
Evidence of their auspicious passing.


This week’s post was prompted by the Trifextra writing challenge: 33 words based on the given photo.