THE OBSERVATION OF FAILURE

Failure is the one thing that modern men are almost always willing to excuse and yet are almost never willing to learn from. No wonder it does them so little good.

from The Business, Career, and Work of Man

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NOBODY WANTS TO READ YOUR SHIT (for free – correction, I Do)

Steven Pressfield is giving away a free download of his new book, Nobody Wants to Read Your Shit.
You should download a copy before the free offer expires. I really like and admire Pressfield’s work, both his historical fiction and his non-fiction.

The War of Art was superb. I added it to my personal library. Everyone should read it.

This will likely be another excellent tool for writers.

I can’t wait to read my download of this new book. I’ll start it this weekend. Afterwards I anticipate that I’ll add it to my personal library as well.

 

No strings attached.
No e-mail address required.

Brand new and FREE from Steven Pressfield

NOBODY WANTS TO READ YOUR SH*T

…picks up where The War of Art left off.

Nobody Wants to Read Your Shit - by Steven Pressfield

.EPUBDownload your free Nook/iTunes/Kobo e-book here!

.MOBIDownload your free Kindle compatible e-book here!

.PDFDownload your free
PDF e-book here!

We’re giving it away (for a limited time) because we want people to read it. Simple as that.

Want more information or a paperback? Click here.

Thanks from Steve P. and everybody at Black Irish Books.

YESTERDAY – TUESDAY’S TALE

SOME OF WHAT I WROTE YESTERDAY (based either on memory of conversations or events of years past or new experience)

I slapped him on the shoulder in a friendly manner and smiled, but I was deadly serious.

“For God’s sake,” I said, “don’t do that. Don’t be a modern man. Be an actual man. Yeah, it’s always hard, and it don’t pay much most of the time. But at least you’ll be alive. Really alive. And in the end what in the hell else matters?”

from my novel The Modern Man
_______________________________

It was as quiet and peaceful and warm and sunny a day as I had ever seen in my entire life. And that was fine by me. I had sure seen enough of all the other kinds of days.

from The Modern Man
________________________________

He topped the small hills that ringed the border to the north and the west and looked out before him. The blue and the green covered the land so thick that he couldn’t see the ground. Not anywhere.

It was an ocean of grass that stretched out forever, with no shore to be seen.

from my novel The Basilegate (Larmageon describing in his own mind wandering the “Blue-Green Sea” just beyond the borders of Kitharia – inspired by my hike in the forests and across the fields today; everything is in bloom and as thick as blood, especially the grass)
_______________________

“My son, as the Lord taught us, you cannot save the world alone. But if you at least set out to try then neither shall you ever fail it…”

from the Basilegate (The Abbot of Studios writing to the Viking Christian convert Drakgarm of Gotar)
________________________

Nothing Works if you won’t.

from the Business, Career, and Work of Man
_________________________

There is no sin in seeking pleasure and avoiding pain. The sin lies in either avoiding pain merely to seek pleasure, or in seeking pleasure by inflicting pain.

from Human Effort

THE DANGER from THE BUSINESS, CAREER, AND WORK OF MAN

Part of me greatly adores and admires words, as they are man’s chief means of communication and the primary treasure of his High Word Hoard. Another part of me, an equal part, absolutely distrusts and detests words as they are the means by which far too many men habitually deceive themselves and the rest of the world, and mankind’s primary method of excuse making in order to avoid noble and just action.

(As a writer) I am like a man caught in the grinding maw of some bizarre and fantastic creature who is sometimes angelic, and sometimes demonic, yet always dangerous.

 

SUMMARY PITCH OUTLINE – HAMMER, TONGS, AND TOOLS

It’s Thursday meaning Hammer, Tongs, and Tools.

For the past few years I’ve been developing Tools to assist me in my career as a fiction writer, songwriter, and poet. In preparation for pursuing those careers.

I have decades worth of Tools regarding my business-careers as a business, copy, and non-fiction writer, and inventor (and as a poet, I’ve been a poet since I was about age 8 or so), many of which I have been posting to my Business Blog, Launch Port.

But here in Wyrdwend I’m going to start making it a habit to post some of my more useful Writing Tools in the form of Templates. I’ll arrange them all into a sellable book, or e-book, or workbook, something like that, maybe in a year or so. I’m too busy right now.

I’m giving you permission to use these tools, or to use them as idea-generators to make your own. Tools, as opposed to actual Works, I consider more public property than proprietary or personal intellectual property. Yeah, in book form I’d consider them mine, but in this form, if you find them useful, then use away.

Each week, barring some unforeseen exigency, I’ll be posting a different Tool, or a different kind of tool (writing, songwriting, poetry, etc.) that you can make use of in developing your own works. Some of these tools I modified from tools suggested to me by others, some contain partial information or design components from other sources, many are entirely my own creations.
To start I give you a very, very simple and easy to use tool. Nevertheless it should (if properly employed) contain vital and succinct information about your Work (Book or other Major Work) that you can use as an elevator pitch, to formulate a written pitch, or to simply keep the fundamental and primary elements of your work clear, distinct, and easily marketable.

SUMMARY PITCH OUTLINE

Opae (Title):

Date Begun:

ONE SENTENCE DESCRIPTION OF BOOK:

ONE PARAGRAPH DESCRIPTION OF BOOK:

ONE PAGE SYNOPSIS OF BOOK:

TWO TO THREE PAGES FULL DESCRIPTION OF BOOK:

THE PLACE WHERE… HAMMER, TONGS, AND TOOLS

I completely concur. Place is every bit as important as plot. And some places are every bit as profound as any plot. And some places are inseparable from plot.

In short place is not only a tool of plot, it is the anvil on which it is truly shaped.

Before You Can Write a Good Plot, You Need to Write a Good Place

Author Linn Ulmann makes the case for the importance of here in “Something happened here.”
Doug McLean

Linn Ulmann spent her childhood trailing her famous parents as they traveled the world. As the daughter of director Ingmar Bergman and the actress Liv Ullmann, two legends of 20th-century cinema, her “home” shifted time and again. The one constant was a Swedish island, Fårö, where she returned each summer to visit her father.

Now, she’s fascinated by the way our surroundings shape us. In her interview for this series, the author of The Cold Song used a short story by Alice Munro  to illustrate the way setting drives her writing, and how place and memory help dictate the stories we tell.

The Cold Song concerns a cast of characters affected by the disappearance of Milla, a 19-year-old au pair working in a coastal town south of Oslo. After two years, her body—and the grisly manner of its death—is uncovered by three boys searching for buried treasure. With this act of violence at its heart, the novel explores the unexpected ways a crime haunts people who knew the victim, inflaming their secret sources of guilt.

Linn Ullmann is the author of five previous novels, including Before You Sleep and A Blessed Child; her work has been translated into more than 30 languages. She spoke to me by phone from her home in Oslo.


Linn Ullmann: When my father died six years ago, and we were selling off his property on the island of Fårö where I grew up, I kept a diary in a big, black notebook. It was a strange thing: a book that mixed notes on practical arrangements with ideas for the new book I’d started writing then. (This book was a mix of the book I did eventually write—The Cold Song—and another book I didn’t write, about the death of a father.) The notebook was a reading diary, too. In between meetings about the funeral, and what to do with his things, and how we were going to bury him, I was reading Alice Munro.

I’ve read her in many stages of my life. I love the way her voice just sucks you in, the way her stories walk you as if to the unexpected edge of a cliff, towards moments that—in their violence or sense of life-changing possibility—are like sudden free fall. During that time of mourning, I’d written down this passage from her story “Face”:

Something had happened here. In your life there are a few places, or maybe only one place, where something has happened. And then there are the other places, which are just other places.

This quote—“Something had happened here”—resonated so much with me. I found it very moving because of where I was right then: starting a new book, having just lost my father, in the only place I had ever really called home. At the time, this was a very desolate island with a few sheep farmers living on it. Fårö was my home until I was three years old—and though I moved very, very many times, I returned every summer for the rest of my life, until my father died. These lines struck me on a profoundly personal level, and I had no choice but to write them down.

I’ve just re-read the story now, and am again blown away by it. It’s impossible to retell a story by Alice Munro, because there are so many ins and outs and digressions, before everything comes together in this surprising, magical way—but this is a strange love story about a boy who has a wine-colored birthmark over half his face. As a child, he’s friends with a girl about his age. Twice, she tries to make her face look like his—once, using red paint, and again later in a more permanent, devastating way. She does this out of love, or a destructive thing that love can sometimes be: “I love you so much that I want to be you.”

There’s so much else in this story, which gives the whole broad arc of the narrator’s life. We learn about his relationship with his father (who, moments after his son is born, remarks, “what a chunk of chopped liver”). We learn about his career as a successful radio actor, before TV—an industry his birthmark bars him from—takes over broadcast drama.  But what sticks, in the end, is the moment in the basement of the childhood home where the little girl splashes red paint on half her face and says, all hopeful, “Now do I look like you?”

At the time, this gesture deeply wounds the boy, and his family interprets it as an act of terrible, mocking cruelty. The two children are never allowed to see each other again. It’s only as an adult that he learns—the afternoon of his father’s funeral—that she later used a razor to cut his same mark on her face. This act—of fidelity? Of shame? Of atonement?—casts the moment in the basement in a totally different light. Perhaps she was a person who identified with him so completely, that she was willing to trade her unblemished face for his. The narrator begins to realize that exchange in the basement was a crucial moment of his life; even though he didn’t realize it at the time, it may have been the closest he ever came to having his marred face looked upon honestly but without reproach, with something like love.

There’s no big sign saying Here’s the turning point. There’s no Sliding Doors scene that tells you, “Here’s the big moment!” But by the end of the story, we sense that this is what matters most to this character, as he looks back. After the revelation at the funeral, he decides not to sell the house where he grew up, where the exchange in the basement happened, as he had planned. Instead, he lives inside it for the rest of his life.

In other words, he comes to see that the childhood house will always be his reference point, his stage of greatest significance. I think it is this way for many of us: There is maybe one place, when we look back, where something happened. Or only a few places. “And then there are all the other places,” Munro writes: important too, but not distinct, not above all else. Those precious few settings where something happened are where meaning resides—they contain the story, they are the story. Yes, I think that, to Alice Munro, story is place—the two are that deeply connected. You do not have a story of a life without an actual place. You can’t separate one from the other.

I think that’s why she’s intensely local in her fiction, like many other great writers (Faulkner, Joyce, and Proust come straight to mind). Munro’s stories unfold in remote places in Canada that I’ve never been to—but in these geographically small places, whole worlds play out. The best writers provide a sense of events unfolding in this specific place, a place that informs and feeds the characters and events. What comes first: the place or the story? The story or the place? With great fiction, it can be impossible to distinguish.

I’ve been a reader of authors who have a strong sense of place, because in my own life I’ve been somewhat placeless. I always traveled as a kid, and went to a new school every year. I lived in New York, I lived in Norway, I lived in Sweden—we travelled around, we moved, and I continued doing that into my adult life. I have been something of a placeless person—so I try to find that in literature, I guess. I seek out books and authors who are very place-specific. For me, in a way, the experience of sitting with a book is the closest thing I have to “home.”

And this reminds me of another Munro line, from her story “The Bear Came Over the Mountain”:

There are places that you long for that you might not ever see.

Some places you never actually experience yourself, but are always important in your life anyway, even if you never go. Places you learn about through literature and other people’s stories can take on intense personal significance, as Munro’s Canadian hamlets have for me. I have this second quote written with the lines from “Face” in that big, black notebook; I probably wrote them on the same day. Somehow, I feel like these two passages—because they are about place in literature, and where things happened, whether a physical place or interior place—are what Munro is all about.

In my own work—the way I actually write—place plays an essential role, too. A choreographer I whose work I love, Merce Cunningham, was once asked, “How do you start a dance?” He said, “Well, you have to begin by showing up.” I think that’s brilliant, and it goes for writing, too. You can have all these novels in your head, all these characters and ideas, but if you don’t actually show up to your writing day—the physical place where you get the work done— you have nothing.

The characters, too, need to “show up”—the story needs to happen somewhere. Again, Munro: “Something happened here.” That line could be the epigraph to everything I write. The “here” is every bit as important as the “something happened.” For me, the two cannot exist without each other; setting and character respond to and inform one another.

When I begin writing, I need to have a place.  It can be a small: even a single room, though I like to be able to see the layout, the colors, the objects inside. I need to have that stage so that my characters have a place to move around. If I can develop that sense of place—and that other crucial quality, the narrative voice—then I feel sure I will find a story, even if it takes some time.  If I don’t have the place, and I don’t have the voice, I’m writing without a motor. It all becomes just words. But once the voice comes, the “here” comes next, and then the “something happened”—what we call plot—follows from it.

In this way, writing becomes a listening experience—a way of being responsive to what you have written, and letting it guide you. Some writers say “the characters come to me,” or the “characters become alive to me at night.” Bullshit. I don’t believe that my characters are alive. But the process requires a form of artistic listening, of understanding the consequences of the decisions you’ve made. If you are lucky enough to find voice and place, there are real consequences to those choices. Together, they limit the possibilities of what can possibly come next—and they help point the way forward. Your role, then, is to not stick to your original idea—it is to be totally faithless to your idea. Instead, be faithful to voice and place as you discover them, and to the consequences of what they entail.

That’s why it’s often more fun fumbling around with notes and good ideas before the writing actually starts—it doesn’t require as much intensive listening. Most writers start out thinking “I’m going to write about such-and-such grand idea.”  That’s fine when it’s all up in your head. But the minute you start putting words down, you begin to confine yourself to certain possibilities, and you must be prepared to abandon what you thought you were writing about before.

There is a Norwegian novelist who says “Writers must beware of their own good ideas.” You have this great idea, and then you start writing—and maybe something happens, and your voice starts taking you places. But if you start to think, I’m going away from my great idea, I have this wonderful idea! I need to get back to my idea—you stop following the consequences of the place and voice you’ve chosen. This is a mistake. You see a lot of decent books and plots that are fantastic—the writing might even be really good—but still somehow feel completely dead. I think that’s because there’s a great idea, a compelling premise, but a lack of honesty that can only come from listening closely to your writing. Those beautiful moments when you’ve just got to put the book away for a while because it’s so intense—we have a Norwegian word, smertepunkt, which literally means “point of pain”—can only come from this kind of honest listening. And Alice Munro is an absolute master of it. She dares to take the consequence of a voice, and a place, and follow them to where it takes her.

Place dictates who we are and how we see—this is true in life, as well as fiction. I see it in the way my father wrote about his first impressions of Fårö in his autobiography, Magic Lantern:

If one wished to be solemn, it could be said that I had found my landscape, my real home. If one wished to be funny, one could talk about love at first sight …. This is your landscape, Bergman. It corresponds to your innermost imaginings of forms, proportions, colours, horizons, sounds, silences, lights and reflections. Security is here. Don’t ask why. Explanations are clumsy rationalizations with hindsight. In, for instance, your profession, you look for simplification, proportion, exertion, relaxation, breathing. The Fårö landscape gives you a wealth of all that.

He decided because of the shape and the light and the proportions that this was where he was going to live and work. And that place is the central place in my life, too. I think probably reading these Alice Munro stories right after his death was why I copied over those quotes. They struck me—because he was dead, and also because I was mourning the fact that I was also losing my place. The island, the house on it, that’s all going to disappear now—and all the memories there, too. You cannot separate memory and place. There are certain places, if we go there, either in our writing or in reading or in life, that conjure up our deepest memories. And memories are all about who we are.

I always wondered if it really was my place. That became the big dilemma in the years after my father’s death: Was it my place, or was it his place? Places are always complicated in that way.

The island is not a place that says “Love me. Look how beautiful I am. You’ll be happy here.” It is not a place that tries to charm or seduce you. It’s beautiful in its starkness, in all its different rocky greys. There are old stone formations, called rauks, that are millions of years old. Red poppies grow in the summer. In the winter, there are countless shades of white. The surrounding sea, the Baltic Sea, is a broken sea: it’s losing oxygen, is filmed with algae on it, and very still. A dead ocean. It’s beautiful, but severe. The nature and the temperament of the whole, stark place—yes, you might fall in love with me, but I don’t know if I’m going to return your love ever. I know that I love the place, but I don’t know if the place loves me.

With some of the greatest loves you have, that’s the dilemma you have to live with.

I GET SICK – TUESDAY’S TALE

I used to breed Great Dane pups. Well, half Great Dane, and half Saint Bernard. I call them American Superiors.

So that I could keep one descendent from every generation and so that (going back four generations now) others who wished them could have one. Best dogs I’ve ever had. Best dogs I’ve ever seen.
But dogs are dogs. Their methods of breeding, reproduction, and birth are hardly easy, civilized, or elevated. Sometimes they’re just brutal. Which reminded me a lot at the time of things I’ve seen with and out of people too.

So I wrote this short story about em both: dogs, and people. Because when they are both high and elevated, they are both noble indeed. And when brutal and beastly I get good and damned tired of watching them kill (intentionally or otherwise) and of burying em…

So for Tuesday’s Tale I’m telling ya, sometimes I Get Sick.

I GET SICK

My bitch killed two of her own. There were only four to begin with, so it was a real blow. To all of us. As much as I love my bitch, and think she’s much smarter than average, it was totally unnecessary. Had I not been already exhausted with overwork I could have seen it coming. Could have prevented it. Should have prevented it, but truth was, I was just plain too late. I get sick of being too late. It always ends like hell, and the payoff is lousy.

With her breed of dog you have to watch the pups carefully. It’s not that she’s a bad bitch in any way, or an uncaring mother. She isn’t. Actually it’s quite the opposite. She cares a lot. Which is why she killed them. Too much of love is deadly in her kind.

We’d been through this before. It wasn’t our first rodeo, for either one of us. I knew how she’d litter, and what the follow on would be. She birthed for two days straight, but slowly. Very slowly. Again, normal for her kind.

Six pups in all, one blue, one brindle, one gold, three black. All of the coat combinations possible given her jet-black coat and the complex coat of her sire. But two were stillborn, a black female my kids named Zoë and a huge pup, twice as big as any of the other two combined, we named Goliath. It was bad he never drew breath. From his size at birth alone it was likely he would have been a prodigious monster. Maybe the biggest my bitch had ever bred.

But four lived. A black female we named Jade, a golden male named Leo, a brindle called Peter, and a beautiful blue (always the rarest in appearance) I named Seanna, meaning “blue gray wave.” They all thrived for five days. My bitch had more than enough milk to nourish them all. Leo grew the largest, Peter next, Seanna was the smallest, but fed the most, and yet Jade too did well. Her fat belly often swelled with what she ate.

On the fifth night I gave up watching the pups anymore. Just let their mother do all the tending. She was doing a superb job, and although I knew that being a Great Dane, and about two hundred pounds, she would be a danger to them until they were three or four weeks old, they all seemed well. I could go back to bed at night, let my bitch care for the pups alone and without my interference. I was already almost sick with overwork and lack of sleep. All night den-father to the litter seemed overkill.

The next morning I got up late, having overslept from previous lack. I went downstairs and looked at the thick blanket on my den floor where my bitch and pups should have been. But they weren’t there. She had moved them all up onto the couch. I ran over, afraid of what it meant, but it was too late.

She had two wrapped in front of her, her legs bent at an angle almost as if she were a human mother hugging them to her. She was licking and grooming them. I snatched them away immediately and placed them back on the floor. Then I looked for the other two.

Sometime after she had placed them on the couch they had slipped behind her. They were caught between the large seat cushions, dead and suffocated. One dead perhaps ten or twenty minutes, one dead probably not two or three minutes earlier. Both were still warm. Leo lay above Jade, a familial yet senseless fellowship of death.

I tried what I could with a syringe to resuscitate them both. But rigor set in quick with Jade. Leo stayed warm and pliant for nearly an hour. I thought at first he might have been comatose, instead of dead. But I could find no sign of breath or heartbeat, even a suppressed one. Eventually he too stiffened.

As best as I could reconstruct from what I saw their mother had probably went to get on the couch during the night to take a break from feeding them all. To take a little rest, maybe get some sleep. She’s used to laying on our couch or lounger as part of her normal routine. Then she heard one or more of them whine, demanding more milk, or her for her warmth. She had retrieved them all to be with her, carried them in her mouth to where she was, because after all she wanted them near and it was far more comfortable on the couch.

But they were too young still, and she far too large. Greta Danes bitches will often crush their young if left unwatched, and never even notice. An accident of nature they don’t think about until after death has claimed his prize.

She felt terrible afterwards, as did I. It took her awhile to figure out, but once she did she moaned and groaned. It was really my fault though. She’s a dog. But I’m a man. I knew what could have happened, and I had let myself become over-confident. That after a couple of litters she already knew all there was to know, and that with such a small litter to tend no real harm could befall form her loving but clumsy efforts at tending her pups. At two hundred pounds they were no match for her mass, and because of her breed, her unchecked affections were lethal and sure.

And, of course, I could have put up all of the cushions before I went to bed that night. That way she could not have placed them on the couch, where they could suffocate beneath her, caught between cushions many times their size, and crushed under a mother many times their weight. I could have also risen earlier. I had missed saving Leo by less than five minutes, and missed saving Jade by half an hour or less. But in all of these things I had been over-confident and stupid, had let exhaustion and lack of sleep and preparation blind me to risk. If anyone was at fault, it was certainly me. If anyone is to blame, the blame is all mine. And just as with any reckless, unnecessary accident or tragedy, there is always someone to blame. If you’re ever really willing to be honest about it.

That didn’t comfort their mother though, any more than it comforted me. Knowing how a sorry thing happened is very different from having prevented it. But at first she didn’t understand either. So she walked in rapid, worried circles around the small bodies, tried her furious best to lick them back to life, and when after an hour she finally realized they were absolutely dead, she demanded to go outside and tried to dig a hole to bury them in. I went outside and spoke to her softly, knowing she couldn’t understand me, but finally she looked up and left off her task. She didn’t need to understand me; she knew they wouldn’t be moving again. And so I guess she was sick of digging her holes.

Why is it that I’m the one that does all of the burying? I often ask myself that at times like these. I’m always the one putting the bodies down. I’m always the one digging the holes, or making the arrangements, or watching the corpses get planted.

Always the bridesmaid, never the bride.

I know my time will come. It’s inevitable. One day someone will plant my mortal remains, and that doesn’t bother me at all. It’s just a body, and well hell, I like it and all, but it seems a poor ride into eternity. It seems very fitting to me to shed it in time. I’ll have other places to be by then anyways.

But until then, on days like today, I have to wonder, what makes me so damned special? How come I get spared, how come I’m the one always left behind? As many times as Death has vested me, smiled, shook my hand, spoke to me like an old friend and wished me well, he’s never once asked me to follow him anywhere else than someone else’s grave. Just recover from whatever hit me so that I can be the one to execute his rites. His silly, tiring, pointless rites and rituals.

Friends, family, victims known and unknown, even my dogs and animals. I’ve inhumed them all. Planted them all. Entombed their last remains so often that all that remains to me is but a shadow of what I used to know. Used to feel. About them. About myself. I get sick of being the one to do all of the burying. I really get sick of it. A disease without end. A task without profit.

And so one day, one day God help me, just send me a cure.

THE SECRET WIZARD

I had an excellent idea today for a new fictional short story while on my morning walk through the woods with my Great Dane Sam. (We got soaked, by the way, in a rainstorm, nevertheless the rain was mostly warm and it was quite fun.)

Since I am writing a non-fiction book about Christian Wizardry that I call, cleverly enough, The Christian Wizard, the idea occurred to me this morning to write a fictional story about a young boy at an archaeological dig (at a cave on a Greek island) who accidentally discovers the tomb of long dead man, the tomb being filled with the artifacts and paraphernalia of the dead man’s life and craft.

For a reason the boy cannot immediately explain he decides to keep his discovery a secret and plunders the tomb for all he can recover: scrolls, books, artifacts, relics, tools, and devices, etc.

Upon close inspection of the find and the remains he discovers that the buried man was a Christian Wizard (not at all like a fictional wizard) who lived in the 8th century AD. The story proceeds from that point and will be called The Secret Wizard, and it will contain in background many of the ideas expressed in the Christian Wizard, only in fictional form, and disguised as metaphors and similes and symbols.

A LITTLE GOES A LONG WAY, AND … TWO FOR FIRST VERSE

Two for First Verse.  So, lucky you, you’ve got a twofer.

 

A LITTLE GOES A LONG WAY

A little goes a long way if a little’s all you’ve got
A long way is a long way though and often costs a lot,

New is sometimes better if it’s really something new
Then again tis often just the useful bid adieu,

Yet the old is still the old because it’s worked awhile
That isn’t always e’re the case, but life is not a mile,

Is new improved – a treasure hoard that purchases the world
Or is it effete novelty that’s simply trimmed in pearl?

The newer goes a long way if your way is just so long
Then again the road is wild, and it goes on and on,

Fresher is the fresh man whose foot has yet to tread
Then again he knows not yet the dangers he must dread,

If I want newer thinking then the young are where I’ll start
But guides who know the jungle are the ones who know their art,

So give me lots of young men, and new, to carry loads
They often make the portage light, divert along the road

Yet if I must into the way where paths are dim and dark
Then let my scouts be old men, and let them know their parts…

________________________________________________________

MARX HE WENT TO MARKET

Well Marx he went to market
With theories great and grand
He sold them to the ignorant
In every foreign land,
At discount did they prosper
To fools they multiplied
In Truth they found no purchase
Yet with mobs they did abide,
Revolutions soon arose
With fires burning bright, and
Still the theories sold by Marx
Could not a dime incite,
Still what is that to theorists
Or professors in the clouds?
They packaged for their profit
Though no profit was allowed,
Well Marx he went to market
Just to find his market share, and
So he did ‘mong idiots
No Intelligensia to spare,
They took his empty theories
To spin out governments, and
That is what they’ve truly done
With dark and dim intent,
They convinced the public masses
They convinced the public schools
They tamed the dupes and gullible
Conscripted all the fools, yes
They sold Marx in their markets
In place of goods instead
Now markets teem with people
But no one has their bread…

MY POWER IN HER PLEASING

As part of my reading today I came across this passage in a work of ER Eddison:

“My pleasure is my power to please my mistress:
My power is my pleasure in that power.”

Which, compared to the surrounding work, struck me as dull and listless and uninspired. I didn’t like it and thought it could have been much better, comparatively speaking. (If it is indeed a quote cited from another work I have not as yet found the original source.)

So I decided to rework the couplet (and thereafter expand it) to see if I could render a better and more apt and more fit version (given the surrounding context). As an experiment, such as the kind of experiments I did on rewriting verse as a young kid.

 

This is what I developed:

“My pleasure is my power to please my mistress:
Her power in that pleasure is to my pleasing
Such powers, pleasing to us both
Yield pleasures sweet and e’er unending
In memory and reminiscence all alike
To the very powers of those pleasing acts.”

THE EXERCISES

Writing Exercises Scientifically Proven To Redirect Your Life

Need to find a new direction or reclaim inspiration? Grab a pen and paper. These writing exercises can help.

We’re total suckers for self improvement: The self-help industry brings in billions of dollars each year from countless books. All that encouraging advice can feel empowering and commonsensical, offering a simple path to a better life.

But there’s a problem with this approach. “Reading a self-help book is like buying a lottery ticket,” writes social psychologist Timothy Wilson in his newest book Redirect. “For a small investment, we get hope in return; the dream that all our problems will soon be solved without any real expectation that they will be.”

While the power of positive thinking—the seeming bread and butter of self-help as we know it—is a nice thought, according to Wilson, there’s no evidence that simply thinking positively actually works. We can’t just will ourselves to be happier a-la The Secret. “Our minds aren’t that stupid,” says Wilson. “It’s not like you can just tell you mind, ‘Think positively.’ You’ve got to nudge it a little more along.”

In Redirect, Wilson offers an alternative he calls “story editing,” based on the research of social scientists over the years. This approach operates off the premise that we each have a core narrative or story that we tell ourselves about who we are and what the world around us is like. It’s a story that influences our choices and way of experiencing the world. But it’s also one we play a major role in shaping for ourselves.

Using specific writing exercises, according to Wilson, we can begin to shift that story and redirect our way of thinking. “Writing is an act of creation. You are creating as you go,” he says. “That’s what can make this personally so helpful.”

Write through a challenging problem

We can never simply write painful or difficult events out of our lives, but we can make them far more graspable and change our relationship to them, according to research by psychologist James Pennebaker. Over the years, Pennebaker has developed an approach he calls “Writing To Heal,” that uses writing exercises as a way to help people deal with difficult events their lives.

To try the Pennebaker writing exercise, think of an event or worry that’s been most on your mind recently. Set aside 15 to 20 minutes at the end of the day to write about that specific problem. Do this for four days in a row, setting aside at least 15 minutes at the end of each day to record your thoughts. As you write, don’t pause or second-guess yourself—just write without stopping.

Through his research over the years, Pennebaker found that this simple four-day exercise helped improve people’s health, and well-being in various studies. “It’s how we deal with setbacks that’s so important,” says Wilson, who has worked with Pennebaker over the years. While the writing exercise can be difficult at first, people tend to gain clarity as they continue doing it. “Often what they first write is jumbled and unorganized,” says Wilson. But eventually “they view what happened to them in a way that makes more sense.”

Distance yourself from negative experiences

Research has also shown that having some distance from a difficult event allows us to step back and better understand it. There’s a writing exercise Wilson calls the “step-back-and-ask-why” approach that allows us to create this distance and understanding in order to reframe negative events.

To do this exercise, close your eyes and bring yourself back to a specific moment or event that was upsetting to you. Then, in your mind, try to take a few steps back from yourself in the moment so that you can see the story unfolding as if it was happening to a distant version of yourself. Write about what that distant version of yourself is thinking and feeling. One way to do this effectively, suggests Wilson, is to write in the third person, rather than the first person, which automatically builds some seperation between you and the moment you’re writing about.

Don’t simply rehash a play-by-play of what happened; instead, try to explain why it happened. “Don’t recount the event,” Wilson writes. “Take a step back and reconstrue and explain it.”

Determine what your best possible self looks like

There’s a reason Saturday Night Live‘s “Daily Affirmations With Stuart Smalley” was such a hit in the ’90s. That focus on self-affirming mantras is practically begging to be made fun of, yet even today, you’ll find that same advice given in total earnest.

But as Wilson points out in his book, rather than telling yourself you’re doing the best you can and are the best you can be—a pretty text-book self-help mantra—try actually imagining what the best version of yourself might look like in the future and what you need to do to achieve those goals.

He calls this writing prompt the “Best Possible Selves Exercise.” Like the Pennebaker prompt, take 15 to 20 minutes a night for four nights in a row to do this exercise. Imagine your life in the future as if you’ve achieved all your life goals. Write not just what those life goals are, but also how you will be able to achieve them. “Focus on the process of achieving an outcome rather than the outcome itself,” says Wilson.

Imagine all the things that could have gone wrong

Gratitude journals are another self-help go-to, but research has shown they can actually have the reverse effect of making you feel less happy. There’s a pleasure to uncertainty—not being able to pin down the specific details of an event were was pleasing.

While reducing our uncertainty about negative events can help us bounce back from them more quickly, reducing uncertainty about positive events can take some of the pleasure out of them. Wilson calls this a pleasure paradox: “People want to understand the good things in life so that they can experience them again, but by doing so they reduce the pleasure they get from those events,” he writes.

For example, research has shown that asking people in a relationship to tell the story of how they met their partner doesn’t make them particularly happier. But ask those same people to write about the many ways in which they might not have met their partner or their relationship might not have worked out and they get much more pleasure out of the exercise. “People don’t like to do that, but when they do, it makes the relationship look special again, at least for a little while,” he says.

This translates well into a writing exercise Wilson calls the “George Bailey Technique” named after the protagonist in It’s A Wonderful Life. For this exercise, think of one of the most important or special events, relationships or accomplishments in your life. Then imagine all the ways in which it might not have happened. Doing this can introduce mystery and excitement back into the experience again.

Maintain a sense of purpose

These last two exercises aren’t so much writing prompts, as they are calls to action. In their studies of what make people feel happiest and most fulfilled, social scientists have found that having a clear sense of purpose is critical. This means reminding yourself of what your most important goals in life are and finding ways to move forward on those goals, says Wilson.

He identifies three ingredients to well-being: hope, meaning, and purpose. Writing exercises that help reframe the way you feel about negative events in the past can help create a sense of hope and meaning, but it’s also important to maintain goals that provide a sense of purpose in your life. “We all have some choice over what we want to pursue and those of us who are really lucky can get paid to do it, but plenty of people find other ways,” says Wilson.

Do some good in the world

Research has shown that it’s not simply having a sense of purpose that contributes to our well-being, but that those who help others are actually happier than those who don’t. These people have a greater likelihood of forming bonds with others and having a positive image of themselves.

“If you want to have a positive outlook and feel like a good person, go out and be a good person,” says Wilson. “The mind is a very good observer of ourselves.”

THE FOUR WORKS

I’ve been working today on the “Four Types of Work“, loosely based in basic design on CS Lewis’ The Four Loves.

Already have basic definitions formulated and the main chapters arranged and outlined. Unlike Lewis’ book though it will be based far less on thought experiments and spiritual and theological intellectualizations than on pragmatic application.

THE MAN WHO WENT IN ALONE – a story that wasn’t

from THE MAN WHO WENT IN ALONE

“I once heard a fable. Wanna hear it?”

I was pretty sure I already knew it, but nodded anyway.

“It’s about the man. You know, the man who went in alone.”

“Sure,” I said.

“Stop me if you’ve heard it already,” he said.

“I’m pretty sure I won’t,” I replied.

“Yeah, well it goes like this. The man who went in alone never came out the other side. The man who came out the other side never found the way back in, but that’s okay, there never was another side, and alone was all there was.”

He waited on me to say something, but there was nothing to say. I already knew that fable. The one that couldn’t be.

“Okay then,” he said. “You go in alone.”

So I did. And he was right.

I never came out again.

TOME AND TOMB

I’ve got some really good and interesting stuff up on my Gaming Blog today, including a Greek animated reproduction of the Tomb at Amphipolis.

Tome and Tomb

NEVER SHALL

The night is cold, I am alone
My aching bones have retold a tale from long, long ago

The night is black, I must seem bold
To have no other stand beside me in this darkness

But I am here because there is no one else, and
So it has ever been…

I am alone

So very, very alone

The night is wet, I never forget
Why I am still here by this grave, my breath frozen

In the still air

There is nothing else…

The night is old, and so am I
The wind is sharp, and the mist is deep

The rain heaps upon me all the past I meant
To bury under here, this stone of mine

This heart of stone, this home that never was
The seep of it from the soaking ground

Why do I yet live?

We both know it would have been me,
Should have been me

Had I just been there with you

The night it is, the morn it comes
But I am here because there is no one else

I am alone

So very, very alone

We both know, except
That I never shall

God, help me,

I never shall…

MAN YOUR TRUTH (a poem)

A man once thought to ask me
What I thought of that
And so I plainly told him,
Sans all the song and scat

Confused he looked at me askant
To ask me once again
“Do you wish to sly recant
What you just said my friend?”

“Now why would I,” said I to him
“Operate that way?”
“I say just what I mean old man
And mean it when I say”

He could not fathom what I meant
“Do you mean,” said he
“That’s your public argument
The one you do decree?!”

“I never speak,” said I to him
“Unless I’m honest first,
What a pointless waste of time
In lies to be rehearsed”

“I do not understand,” he said
“Why you go ‘gainst the grain,
You’re not afraid you might offend
Or find yourself disdained?”

I laughed out loud at such a thought
That I should surely care
That men who tremble and who lie
Would cower cause I dare

To speak what’s plain, or do what’s right
It’s all the same to me
“If it frightens you my friend
I need no company”

He shook his head, he bowed to think
He could not comprehend
That what all others thought of him
Was not the greatest end

“I cannot,” he did meekly moan
“Understand your point
“My world is made of what they say,
Without – I’m out of joint,”

“Your world,” I said in my response
What comforts I could make,
“Is very small and powerless
Yet still you bow and scrape”

“If free you wish, if man to be
You must start with yourself
No other false opinion
Can render any help”

An honest man, a fearless man
What other kind is there?
Every other type of man
Floats helpless in the air”

He looked at me, his eyes obscured
His habits all in force
I thought I saw a brief hope there
But tempered with remorse

“I cannot be that thing you say
Not honest, nor yet brave
I am not made that way, you see,
To fashion I am slave”

I understood, yes, many men
Thus find themselves construed –
To courage and to honesty
They will not dare allude

But I say this, to one and all,
Take it as you will
Fad and fashion unmake men
Compliance – it does kill

So if you must, like everyone
Be as all of them
The day will come despite that fact
When they will still condemn

So sembling live their paradise
From honesty aloof
Yet man it will not save you
“I’m telling you the Truth…”

MY POETRY

Tonight before bed I decided I would make an accurate and up to date accounting of my recent work output. Regarding my poetry.

As of tonight I have recently (within the past year and a half) written 279 individual poems.

That does not account for all of my older poems, such as those comprising my 6 completed books of poetry.

Nor does it account for all of the verse appearing in my novels, children’s books, and other writings. Nor does it account for any of my song lyrics or the 33 poems I have started but have not yet finished.

Nor does it account for any of my epic poetry or any of my longer works of verse. All of which I’ll have to account for later, when I have the time.

Of the 279 more recent poems, and the currently unfinished poems, I suspect I could create two new books of poetry, or maybe three, depending on the length of some of these individual poems.

Which would bring the total number of books of poetry I have written to 9, not counting epics, mythic poetry, and books of romantic and love poetry.

At the moment I am satisfied with this count.

THESAURUS

http://tomeandtomb.wordpress.com/2014/12/02/product-review-the-storytellers-thesaurus-fantasy-history-horror/

LE GUIN’S GOOD ADVICE

By the way I’ve said for years that “Show, don’t tell” may just be the single most juvenile and straight-jacketing piece of writing advice I’ve ever heard in my life. Show, don’t tell is an appropriate device for certain genres and in certain situations, it is the kiss of death for great literature and poetry.

 

 

10 Writing Tips from Ursula Le Guin

At the National Book Awards a few nights ago, Ursula Le Guin was honored with the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, a fancy sounding award that basically means she’s the bomb (she really is).

Ursula Le Guin writing quote

I’ve been reading Ursula Le Guin for a long time, since I first discovered The Earthsea Cycle, which re-invigorated my love for fantasy.

She’s also famous for her science-fiction, especially The Left Hand of Darkness and The Dispossessed, and was one of the first to show the world that women can not only write great science-fiction, they can often do it better than men.

Le Guin is a “genre” writer who constantly worked to push the boundaries of what we think of as genre. Besides sci-fi and fantasy, she wrote poetry, creative non-fiction, and literary fiction.

I honestly believe she will go down in history as one of the greatest writers, literary or otherwise, of the 20th century.

Ursula Le Guin’s Quotes on Writing

With that in mind, here are ten quotes from Ursula Le Guin on her process as a writer:

1. “Show, Don’t Tell” is for Beginners

From ursulakleguin.com:

Thanks to “show don’t tell,” I find writers in my workshops who think exposition is wicked. They’re afraid to describe the world they’ve invented.… This dread of writing a sentence that isn’t crammed with “gutwrenching action” leads fiction writers to rely far too much on dialogue, to restrict voice to limited third person and tense to the present.

2. So Is “Write What You Know”

From ursulakleguin.com:

As for “Write what you know,” I was regularly told this as a beginner. I think it’s a very good rule and have always obeyed it. I write about imaginary countries, alien societies on other planets, dragons, wizards, the Napa Valley in 22002. I know these things. I know them better than anybody else possibly could, so it’s my duty to testify about them.

3. Do Your Job as a Writer, and Do it Really Well

From Paris Review:

But when people say, Did you always want to be a writer?, I have to say no! I always was a writer (tweet that, emphasis mine). I didn’t want to be a writer and lead the writer’s life and be glamorous and go to New York. I just wanted to do my job writing, and to do it really well.

4. Shoot for the Top, Always.

Ursula Le Guin writing quote

From Paris Review:

When asked what authors she measures her work against, Le Guin says:

Charles Dickens. Jane Austen. And then, when I finally learned to read her, Virginia Woolf. Shoot for the top, always. You know you’ll never make it, but what’s the fun if you don’t shoot for the top? (tweet that)

5. Write Like Who You Are

From Paris Review:

Hey, guess what? You’re a woman. You can write like a woman. I saw that women don’t have to write about what men write about, or write what men think they want to read. I saw that women have whole areas of experience men don’t have—and that they’re worth writing and reading about.

6. Learn from the Greats

From Paris Review:

It was Borges and Calvino who made me think, Hey, look at what they’re doing! Can I do that?

7. Writing is All About Learning to See

Ursula Le Guin writing quote

From Paris Review:

A very good book tells me news, tells me things I didn’t know, or didn’t know I knew, yet I recognize them— yes, I see, yes, this is how the world is. Fiction—and poetry and drama—cleanse the doors of perception. (tweet that)

I love this, by the way. It reminds me of Oscar Wilde’s quote, “No great artist ever sees things as they really are. If he did, he would cease to be an artist.”

8. Begin Your Story with a Voice

From Paris Review:

How should you begin your story?

With a voice. With a voice in the ear. That first page I wrote, which the novel progressed from, is simply Lavinia speaking to us—including me, apparently.

9. Focus on the Rhythm of the Story

From Paris Review:

I want the story to have a rhythm that keeps moving forward. Because that’s the whole point of telling a story. You’re on a journey—you’re going from here to there. It’s got to move. Even if the rhythm is very complicated and subtle, that’s what’s going to carry the reader.

10. Don’t Waste Time

From Paris Review:

And one of [the things you learn as you get older] is, you really need less… My model for this is late Beethoven. He moves so strangely and quite suddenly sometimes from place to place in his music, in the late quartets. He knows where he’s going and he just doesn’t want to waste all that time getting there…. One is aware of this as one gets older. You can’t waste time.

How about you? What do you love about Ursula Le Guin? What has she taught you about writing?

PRACTICE

Use tip #5 and write like who you really are.  Write like a woman or a man or an American or an alien or an Ursula Le Guin or a Joe Bunting. Write just as you are.

Write for fifteen minutes. When your time is up, post your practice in the comments section. And if you post, please be sure to give feedback to a few other writers.

Happy writing!

About Joe Bunting

Joe Bunting is a writer and entrepreneur. He is the author of the #1 Amazon Bestseller Let’s Write a Short Story! and the co-founder of Story Cartel. You can follow him on Twitter (@joebunting).

WHAT I AM CURRENTLY READING: SEPTEMBER, 2014

FICTION

The Little Green Book of Chairman Rahma

The Dark Between the Stars

The King’s Marauder

Shadow of the Alchemist

 

NON-FICTION

The Making of Middle Earth

West of the Revolution

The Wrong War (Bing West)

Anglo-Saxon Art

 

LECTURE

The Norsemen – by Michael Drout

 

BOOKS ON CD

The Hangman’s Revolution

 

PERIODICALS

Bloomberg BusinessWeek
Forbes
Popular Mechanics
Popular Science

 

GRAPHIC NOVEL

Arkham Unhinged

 

SELF-WORKS (Books I have written I am preparing for Publication)

The Book of Intelligence Designs

SOMETIMES

SOMETIMES

Sometimes I am happy, sometimes I am sad, sometimes I’m nostalgic over times that I have had.

Sometimes I am furious, sometimes long at peace, sometimes I’m a superman, and sometimes I am weak.

Most times I am fearless, sometimes I am shocked, the older I get the more I note the ticking of the clock.

Sometimes I’m ecstatic, sometimes I am glad, that considering everything I’ve seen I’m not yet driven mad.

Sometimes I endure it, sometimes I need rest, sometimes I can’t do it, sometimes it’s for the best.

Sometimes I will wonder, a longing in my heart, to go where I have never been to play a different part.

Sometimes I’ll invent it if it doesn’t yet exist, sometimes I will hit my mark, I never try to miss.

Sometimes I am wiser than most anyone around, sometimes I don’t know a thing, and do not make a sound.

Sometimes I can see for miles, sometimes I just know, sometimes I must think awhile before it ever shows.

Often I will stand alone against the gathered mass, that never, ever bothered me, not now or in the past.

Sometimes I am lonely when I am by myself, then I’ll hear God speaking, and then my soul is well.

Sometimes I am injured, sometimes I am ill, sometimes I’m unstoppable, and sometimes I am still.

Sometimes I am joking, sometimes I am fun, sometimes I’m the bon vivant just sitting in the sun.

Sometimes I am quiet, sometimes I just write, sometimes when I say it all it still won’t come out right.

Sometimes I’m the hunter watching in the night, sometimes I catch evil men before they can take flight.

Sometimes I’m a genius, sometimes I am not, sometimes nothing is too hard, sometimes I’m tied in knots.

Sometimes I’m heroic, I do not count the cost, sometimes I am sure enough, and sometimes I am lost.

Sometimes I’m a Saint to some, sometimes I’m but a lout, sometimes I must hide it all by saying it out loud.

Sometimes I’m deceptive, but never without aim, cause sometimes Truth is hard to bear, too much of it can maim.

Sometimes I’m possessed by God to do what I would not, sometimes I don’t care at all, I act without a thought.

Sometimes I will turn a verse, then flip it round instead, to remind myself by doing so there’s treasure in my head.

Some days I really get the bear, one day he will get me, that’s the risk of living well, the thing you’ve yet to be.

Sometimes I will make a song then write the lyrics down, so others can continue it when I am not around.

Sometimes I am wonder-struck, sometimes I am in awe, the things that weave this world up tight they fascinate me all.

Sometimes I am burning hot, sometimes far too cold, sometimes I’ll keep what is left to hoard up in my soul.

Sometimes I am full of life, my blood does rightly sing, sometimes I am sorely vexed, the bells of doom do ring.

Sometimes I am birthed anew as if I were fresh borne, I pity those who never know, who never are reborn.

Sometimes there’s a problem, I long to solve it true, if I vanquish it in time I’m happy so to do.

Sometimes I will talk with Death, he reminds me who I am, I’m grateful for his honesty for I am just a man.

Yet sometimes when the sun is high, and I am pure and free, then I know the world is good, and it was made for me.

CREATIVE ACTIONS – HOW TO MAXIMIZE THEM

Although I am no fan of the Huffington Post I agree with every general point made in this article. Personally I would add a couple of more but I won’t quibble. I’d read the whole article.

18 Things Highly Creative People Do Differently

Posted: 03/04/2014 8:48 am EST Updated: 03/26/2014 8:59 am EDT

Print Article

CREATIVITY

Creativity works in mysterious and often paradoxical ways. Creative thinking is a stable, defining characteristic in some personalities, but it may also change based on situation and context. Inspiration and ideas often arise seemingly out of nowhere and then fail to show up when we most need them, and creative thinking requires complex cognition yet is completely distinct from the thinking process.

Neuroscience paints a complicated picture of creativity. As scientists now understand it, creativity is far more complex than the right-left brain distinction would have us think (the theory being that left brain = rational and analytical, right brain = creative and emotional). In fact, creativity is thought to involve a number of cognitive processes, neural pathways and emotions, and we still don’t have the full picture of how the imaginative mind works.

And psychologically speaking, creative personality types are difficult to pin down, largely because they’re complex, paradoxical and tend to avoid habit or routine. And it’s not just a stereotype of the “tortured artist” — artists really may be more complicated people. Research has suggested that creativity involves the coming together of a multitude of traits, behaviors and social influences in a single person.

“It’s actually hard for creative people to know themselves because the creative self is more complex than the non-creative self,” Scott Barry Kaufman, a psychologist at New York University who has spent years researching creativity, told The Huffington Post. “The things that stand out the most are the paradoxes of the creative self … Imaginative people have messier minds.”

While there’s no “typical” creative type, there are some tell-tale characteristics and behaviors of highly creative people. Here are 18 things they do differently…

 

THE ELEMENTS OF THE QUEST

The Elements of a Great Quest – I think that real Quests are very rare in our society, for a number of societal and cultural reasons, and things that are really just minor accomplishments are these days mislabeled as Quests. When in fact they are not Quests at all.

(Or put another way, modern man has developed a totally different definition, and a much more anemic one in my opinion, of “the Quest” than those definitions used in earlier ages to describe a real Quest.)

This then struck me as an extremely interesting article.
THE KNIGHT’S QUEST

On the rim of the Biblical world, in the mountains of Eastern Anatolia to the northwest of Mount Ararat, rises the river Kura. It winds its way into the Kartlian plateau becoming muddy and green, coursing past the ancient stone city of Mtskheta with its eleventh century cathedral, where the mighty river Aragvi increases its volume, then the hilltop monastery of Jvari with its crenelated roof, associated with the introduction of Christianity to the region in the fifth century. The river is framed by dramatically peaked hills covered in the early summer with lavender and wildflowers. It takes several wide bends before coming to the great Caucasus metropolis of Tbilisi with its curious architecture of overhanging upper floor verandas and its great fortress and then it turns to the south east past the city of Rustavi, once charming and rustic, now grim and industrial, before turning to the plain of Shirvan on its final sprint towards the Caspian Sea. It is one of the most hauntingly beautiful places on earth. It cast spells on a generation of Romantic poets—men like Mikhail Lermontov, who was so obsessed with the scenery that he took to painting it in landscapes to escape it. This is the land of Shota Rustaveli—whose name means “lord of Rustavi”—the great medieval poet of the Georgian language. They call him the Georgian national poet. But indeed, there is nothing particularly “national” about Rustaveli. He is more a poet on an endless journey, an inward-bound journey, whose writing points far beyond nations.
knightsquestone

The first thing that is bound to strike his reader is that Rustaveli hardly seems constrained by such a narrow view of what constitutes “home.” Rustaveli is a writer of the twelfth century, of the Middle Ages. But his world covers a vast territory—from England to China. It’s hard to understand how a man of this period could have amassed such a prodigious knowledge of the earth, for surely this is not to be found among his contemporaries…

knightsquestone

 

THE BARD’S REMEMBRANCE

I wandered long to tell the tale of heroes in this world
I sang, I feasted, spoke my verse, drank and danced for Earls
In courts and castles did I roam but never kept a’ Count
Of just how many women wooed or knights I did unmount
I traveled nights without a moon in forests deep and dim
While Warlocks of their secret charms I often learned to skim
Monstrous ruins did I scour to find what harm lay tombed
Did I this upon the hour heavy cloaked in gloom
Great Wizards I did put at ease with my flute and lyre
Men at War I roused to fight before the glowing fire
Thieves did think them craftily the cunning criminal
Until I mastered them in guile to leave them stript and dull
Priests befriended, merchant’s aid, the King’s own counselor
Old Keeps razed and Dukes a’scorned by every art of lore
Famous flags and banners raised I fought beneath them all
Yet never did I bend the knee, I kept myself unthralled
Wealth grew great and treasure troves I found within the world
I plundered hoards, took what I wished, the rest I passed to churls
Grim grew I as long I aged, the Winter’s bite took hold
Then laughed again as Spring bloomed new even though I’m old
God High Above, death far below, the things that I have seen
The Barrow Mounds, the Hunting Hounds, the foxes in the lean
I’ve been a Bard, tis true my friend, adventures without end
The Sire of Suits, the Poets Truth, Meander’s only friend
I’m laughing now, you cannot know, delight within my breast
I’d do it all again you see, the minstrel is thrice blest
He lives a man, a dire man, beyond the frontier walls
He sings of it to kings and queens, but does not sing it all
For though the joy is deep in him of everything he speaks
There is a place he never found that still his soul does seek…

REALLY SIMPLE

An interesting, simple, little writing contest that I thought some of you might enjoy entering. I’m going to enter it myself after deciding upon a proper subject.

 

0805typewriting-machine

Have you ever had a eureka moment? Tell us about it.

Think back on the instant when everything became clear. The split second when you realized that you had chosen the right career. Or the moment when you knew that your dearest friendship would last forever. Whether your epiphany changed your life or just made your day, write it down and share it with us.

 

Enter Real Simple’s seventh annual Life Lessons Essay Contest and you could have your essay published in Real Simple and receive a prize of $3,000.

Send your typed, double-spaced submission (1,500 words maximum, preferably in a Microsoft Word document) to lifelessons@realsimple.com. Contest begins at 12:01 A.M. EST on May 9, 2014, and runs through 11:50 P.M. EST on  September 18, 2014. All submitted essays must be nonfiction. Open to legal residents of the United States age 19 or older at time of entry. Void where prohibited by law. (Entries will not be returned.)

 

 

MOST MEN from HUMAN EFFORT

Most men could change for the better in an instant if they really so desired. Unfortunately most men would rather expend the enormous energies required to prove themselves right than expend the far more modest effort required to actually be right.

GOD from DIVINE SOPHIA

God is extremely good at concealment, and when he so wishes, God is absolutely beyond all our meager capabilities of pursuit and detection. Yet when God wishes to be found then he will be found and the Wise man does very well to observe and note all he can for as long as he can. For in such moments of discovery are to be found the answer to many a mystery.

THE SONG SKYFALL

Since I’m on the film Skyfall tonight I thought I might make one more related post. As I said previously I thought Skyfall was the best James Bond film I’ve ever seen. And one of the more realistic as far as the analytical and detective work went. I even immensely enjoyed the theme music, the lyrics of which I later analyzed line by line.

I thought the song was fine for an “entertainment film theme” and even vaguely appropriate for the most part regarding the characterization, but the lyrics of the theme song had nothing whatsoever to do with real intelligence work nor did they have anything much to do at all with the plot of the film.

So about three months after the film came out on DVD I rented the film, made a line by line examination of the lyrics, thought about the film, and real intelligence work, and decided to largely rewrite the lyrics with those things in mind. The result is the set of lyrics you’ll see below which to me far more accurately reflect both the plot of the film and actual intelligence work, as opposed to just being a catchy film theme song.

I set these lyrics to run at the same tempo and to the same theme music (the musical composition itself – which I thought was well done) and to run for the same length of time as the introductory title theme song near the beginning of the film. But the lyrics are different of course.

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SKYFALL

So…

Where do we begin
Now that we know we’ve found the end?
I’ve seen them all and once again
I’ve lost the limits of my sins

For I know I cannot mend
Nor can I anymore pretend
You cannot take, I cannot lend
Does this truly make us friends?

When the sky falls
Come the thunder
When the night calls
You cannot get away

When the sky falls
Going under
When the truth palls
There is no coming day

Skyfall has come to us
I cannot say if this is just
I’ve wondered long who I might trust
This seems as if it must…

Just be the way it is

The dark is deep and long in me
You know this, even you can see
I cannot ask, you have no plea
This is the way it all must be…

When others come to look

You cannot know the rest
Just trust me
That is for the best

If you know my name
I cannot say
Wherever it will lead…

When the sky falls
It’s frightening
When your flesh crawls
I will not speak a lie

When the sky falls
Like lightening
When your voice calls
Come find me as you die

When the Sky Falls
When the Spooks crawl
When the night calls
Where will you go that day?

When the Sky Falls
When the Sky Falls
When the Sky Falls
When the Sky Falls

When does the SkyFall?

Neither one of us can say

Oh no we won’t…

 

THE FOOL’S ERRAND AND THE REAL CURE – from The Book of Medicine

Treating symptoms and easing pain are entirely different things than actually curing disease. Modern medicine is very good at treating symptoms and easing pain, it is however far less effective at actually curing disease. Any competent doctor can temporarily and successfully treat symptoms and ease pain. But a Cure, a real and lasting Cure, especially of chronic ills, that requires the full cooperation and concentrated effort of both the physician and the patient.

It is a fool’s errand to think doctors cure disease. Doctors advise, doctors diagnose, doctors guide, doctors treat, but patients alone are responsible for their own Cures.

The Real Cure succeeds not because of the skill of the doctor but because of the nature of the patient.

OTHER WORLDS TO WEAVE

This world can do without me
I’m not her only man
If the world should lose me
The world will understand

The people that I leave behind
Will live when I am not
They’ll take it as a passing sign
My absence soon forgot

The world has been since ancient times
A place of brief reprieve
I make no demands on this world
To count what I’ve achieved

This world’s a wonder and a pit
Both things are surely true
Marvels gild where evil flits
Near everything we do

I cannot bet upon this world
She cannot claim my soul
She’ll be fine when I am gone
She’ll never even know

I may be sad to part from those
I’ll lose upon that day
But who’s to say they’re gone for good
And not just far away?

The world can do without me
I am no vital link
No one’s irreplaceable
No matter what they think

I shall leave this unsure world
This life shall pass from me
Then I shall to other worlds
Roam farther, higher, free

God awaits in greener worlds
Where everything’s alive
I shall meet him there one day
And in those worlds I’ll thrive

The world can do without you friend
When your day is done
And if I’ve left before you then
We’ve only just begun

This world is one, it is not all
The day will come to leave
When that happens just recall
We’ve Other Worlds to Weave.

LOOK, OVER THERE, NOT THE FOREST, BUT THE WEEDS…

This is a superb little article on writing. I myself have been saying for a very long time that most writing advice, especially most modern writing advice, is absolute bullshit and entirely contradictory to the idea of both writing well and of communicating anything worthwhile at all.

Now whereas I don’t agree that writing is all about, or at least not solely about, the “Observational trick,” it is a far better observation than most modern ones on writing.

At the very best the best any writing advice can do is encapsulate an extremely narrow range of ideas about how it is possible to efficiently communicate in a certain way (it can in no way exhaust the possibilities), therefore no such advice can ever produce genius or even real ability. And the Truth is that both genius and real ability tend to far eclipse any advice that could possibly be given about either.

Hemingway may have said it best…, no on second thought he didn’t, he said it best for Hemingway, but even Hemingway was no Shakespeare now was he? No, he wasn’t. There is a very good reason Shakespeare is the most quoted writer in the history of the English language and it has absolutely nothing to do with Hemingway’s writing advice. As a matter of fact it has a great deal to do with the very opposite of Hemingway’s writing advice. And that is also very likely why there is no modern equivalent of Shakespeare, because modern people are herdish and extremely easy to fool. Just give them all a popular, unchallenged fashionable theory to imitate and by God, come hell or high water, they’ll dig their own grave and happily and uncritically lie down in it to prove the theory.

I’m glad to see the revolt against this narrow minded, small imagined bullshit beginning. It’s long, long, long overdue.

So endeth the trick…

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“What’s the secret to writing well? As I’ve said previously here, an awful lot of people seem to think they know, yet their “rules for writers” are almost always (pardon the technical linguistics jargon) bullshit. For example, “Show, don’t tell” is frequently bad advice. In the right context, the passive voice is fine. Elmore Leonard’s most famous rule, “Never use a verb other than ‘said’ to carry dialogue”, is sheer silliness. Even the sainted Orwell’s rules are a bit rubbish: the final one is, “Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous”, which means his advice is really just “Don’t write barbarically”. So it doesn’t bode well that the psychologist Steven Pinker is to publish his own advice book, The Sense Of Style, later this year. Judging by a recent interview at edge.org, however, this one might be different. Writing, Pinker points out, is inherently a psychological phenomenon, “a way that one mind can cause ideas to happen in another mind”. So one place to begin is with actual psychology.”

http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/jun/28/change-your-life-how-to-think-about-writing

THE MEMORY PALACE, MATTEO RICCI, AND THE CITY OF AGAPOLIS

Excellent little article on a simple mnemonic technique. As many of you know this is a subject which has fascinated and interested me for decades. So I’m gonna recreate my response to the article here:

I first became familiar with ancient and Medieval mnemonic techniques after reading the book, The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci, which still has a favorite place in my personal library. I highly recommend the book. I was in college at the time. After that I spent about ten years researching ancient and Medieval mnemonic techniques.

After that I built a memory palace in my own mind, and eventually that led me to build a Memory City in my own mind called Agapolis. Complete with maps and buildings and parks and so forth. I might have already mentioned Agapolis here, I think I might have. The design I adapted from the City of Constantinople (New Rome).

Eventually after reading some of the works of Archimedes (on mind-laboratories) I turned Agapolis into a real city (still just in my mind) with laboratories, churches, temples, stadiums, banks, hospitals, parks, places I can live, study, write, etc. This kind of city I am sometimes tempted to call a Civis Imaginaria, but I still have yet to develop a term I’m really satisfied with.

Now if I’m sick I visit the hospital in Agapolis to help with my illness or injury. If I want to write I go to one of my writing retreats in Agapolis and write in my head if I can’t on my computer, and thereby store the story or poem or song there for later retrieval. I do that a lot while working outside, then retrieve the whatever it is later on from my head.

If I’m working on a scientific project or a math problem or an invention I go to the Museus (originally Greek museums, such as in Alexandria) were not artifact storehouses, but invention laboratories) in Agapolis and work the project there.

If I want to work on a business project then I go to one of the offices there.

If I want to talk or hang out with God I go to one of the churches or temples or to the countryside outside of the city.

Yes, I still use the buildings and objects and people (I populate the city with famous people from history as well as fictional characters I’d like to hang out with or talk to) as memory storage and retrieval tools but I also use all of those things for much wider applications as well.

I recommend it.

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Memorizing Historical Dates Using a Memory Palace

by Josh Cohen on March 14, 2011

In the memory forum, Cole linked to a fascinating illustration of a memory palace for memorizing historical dates.

I’ve re-posted the illustration here:

Emma Willard's The Temple of Time

I found a short description here:

The “Temple of Time” is a three-dimensional projection of historical chronography. In the temple, the vertical columns represent centuries, with those on the right showing names of important figures from the Old World while those on the left show figures from the New World. The floor shows a historical stream chart. The ceiling functions as a chart of biography.

The “Temple of Time,” created in 1846 by the pioneering American girls’ educator Emma Willard, draws on the tradition of Renaissance “memory theaters,” mnemonic devices that allowed people to memorize information by imagining it as architectural details in a three-dimensional mental space.

 

Here is the link to the Mnemonics article: http://blog.mnemotechnics.org/memorizing-historical-dates-using-a-memory-palace-1916.html

Here is the link to the Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci: http://www.amazon.com/The-Memory-Palace-Matteo-Ricci/dp/0140080988

SITTING ON DEATH

Very important to know. I have recently changed my writing habits immensely as a result of these types of studies and this type of information.

I fully agree with this premise: the human body was not designed to sit sedentary for long periods of time.

It was actually designed to do the exact opposite.

“A large review recently published in The Journal of the National Cancer Institute confirms what we’ve been hearing for years: Sitting can be fatal.

It’s been linked to cancerdiabetes, and cardiovascular disease. In this latest meta-analysis, Daniela Schmid and Michael F. Leitzmann of the University of Regensburg in Germany analyzed 43 observational studies, amounting to more than 4 million people’s answers to questions about their sitting behavior and cancer incidences. The researchers examined close to 70,000 cancer cases and found that sitting is associated with a 24% increased risk of colon cancer, a 32% increased risk of endometrial cancer, and a 21% increased risk of lung cancer.

The really bad news: You can’t exercise away the habit’s harmful effects. “Adjustment for physical activity did not affect the positive association between sedentary behavior and cancer,” the authors write. Even participants who achieved the daily recommended levels of physical activity were at the same risk as those who spent their day sitting. “[The results] indicate that the increased risk of cancer seen in individuals with prolonged time spent sedentary is not explained by the mere absence of physical activity in those persons,” the researchers say.”

http://qz.com/223160/why-not-even-exercise-will-undo-the-harm-of-sitting-all-day-and-what-you-can-do-about-it/

SHORTHAND AND SMARTPENS

So, you ask, how does anyone do this anymore?

Well, if you ask me, every time good, old fashioned, well-proven technique meets superior, well-designed, new technology it’s at least possible to do it better.

So try this on for size:

“As a journalist, I begin most interviews by holding up my pen and asking, “Have you ever seen one of these?” No one ever has.

It’s not an ordinary pen, of course. It’s a Sky wifi smartpen, a piece of gee-whiz technology from a company called Livescribe. Basically, the smartpen replaces all your standard reporter’s tools. To start with, it’s an old-fashioned pen for old-fashioned paper, so I can still scribble my notes the way I always have. The smartpen is also a high-quality digital recorder, creating an audio file of the interview as we go along. Finally, a tiny camera near the tip of the pen simultaneously takes pictures of my notes as I write…”

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2014/06/yeah-i-still-use-shorthand-and-a-smartpen/373281/?utm_source=digg&utm_medium=email

PENNY DREADFUL

Penny Dreadful, mood most leadful
Like a cup of arsenic
Spoon my cube of sugared rubiks
My Sophists are all Cynicals

Penny Dreadful, lungs and headful
Smoke a peacepipe barrow-top
A drop of silver, moon and livers
Make a canny bumper-crop

Penny Dreadful, all regretful
That this night is deep and black
Kill the Hanged-Man, in the bright sand
Bury them then bring him back

Penny Dreadful, what a mouthful
If the spirits won’t attend
I don’t know, I just work here
Tell me how this thing will end

Penny Dreadful, mourn the bledful
Filled at every fresh dead-drop
I never saw the bag man moving
But I heard his shadow-hop…

 

A DAY IN THE KIFE – UPDATE

Update: So last night I went out for waffles and a ding-dong. While sitting and waiting for my coffee brunch this old lady wanders by and makes like a cat caught under a washing machine. You could hear the fur fly but nobody said nothing cause it was after closing time already. Still that kinda racket really piques my pin-cushion whenever I’m within quadruple earshot. So I got up and floated outside, but upside down so nobody would notice. Once the roof was beneath my head I called out, “Hey Method Man, take out for sixteen.” But nobody came to listen. It’s like that old analogy, “if a tree falls, then what’s the best direction to be upright?” I’ve never caught that saying in the middle of nothing, so en media res is all satellite radio to me.

But seeing as that is neither here nor there, I decided it would be best to climb back down to street level, to see what all the fuss was about. No sooner had I toed up my twinkles and caught wicked pavement than the old lady shot by me like a post modern possum. “Hooray,” I said. “How long you been screaming?”

“The whole time it took me, but nobody cares.” She said without speaking. I touched my nose and she laughed in the other direction.

With that kinda market-clout I could feel what she peddled, but no closer to home, away I did run. Three good blocks later, or half a loaf will do ya, I finally hit paydirt and rang up the bill.

“Is Pink here,” I asked. “Cause I wish he was here

“Don’t we all, and whatcha mean?” asked the Russians, but pulling pushed harder, so centrifugal tickled and I had to laugh. 2 cute for Harlem, we all know the story, and I was no farther than farther along. Well, what’s a guy to do when he’s tried nothing and everything worked, but not like he figured, so he’s back to the end? That kinda thing really gets to some guys, but not me, I just kept a pluggin and hoped not to spit. More holes though went a’poppin than I could’a covered so whenever that happens I shake my stick. Now good sticks are expensive, or that’s what they tell me, but far worse than belt loops when you buy one for free.

Now as luck would have it, or maybe on purpose, I lost the old lady, but found a new boot. Since my old one was still under warranty, I ditched it in Chelsea and wore on the gum-fingers till the treading felt right. It was good that I did so, or maybe just dancing, cause ten minutes later I was early to bed. More on this last week.

But not right now. Somebody ain’t watching, and it’s already past ten…

https://wyrdwend.wordpress.com/2014/06/21/a-day-in-the-fike/

OUTSIDE THE LINES: AKA, AN OLD TOMB IN SAMARKAND

I got photos of an old Tomb in Samarkand.

The real Samarkand, not the one in all the children’s books.

The Tome that came with the pics told me not to visit after midnight in case I caught the dead creep-walking.

I don’t mind a little creep-walking, I’ve done it a time or two myself, but I was never any good at taking advice, though I give some on occasion.

Anyway what I saw next was kinda peculiar. But I don’t mean that in a Wyrd way.

I mean more by way of the deviation.

The thing about deviations is their draw weight.

So you can always draw a picture but nobody ever tries that with gravity. If you get my meaning.

If you don’t then try it with a different mass. Or even en masse.

Sometimes that works too.

Anywho if you’ll just consult your watch you’ll eventually find I preferred the hand drawn map I never made to the black and white photographs they keep giving me. Why?

Because you can always color outside the lines.

Outside the lines is where you find all the really interesting stuff…

A DAY IN THE FIKE

Today I go into work and get asked to impersonate somebody. Always finding other people more interesting than anyone else I take the dart they’re pitching, then swing out wide of center. Bullseye! So right off the bat I know that yesterday has already passed tomorrow, as they say in the biz. Well, I psyche myself up because Russians sound funny when they talk. Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve got quite a few friends south of Kamchatka, but I’ve never liked Eskimo pies. They make me gassy.

So, I get all painted up, dressed down, and put into costume, then go for a little stroll downtown into the local Red Square, when who should I run into but an old buddy of mine, also in the get up.

“Whatcha doing here man?”

“Oh, you know, the old shake, rattle and roll.”

“You get pop corn and fries with that?” Well, we both laugh at that one. It was pretty good for being on the spot, I gotta admit.

“Did you get rolled last week?”

“Nah,” he says. “That’s next week.”

“How can you predict that?”

“Because the old man is a galactophagist.” Now it’s my time to guffaw.

“Who they painted you for this time?” Not sure I’m clear to talk I tell him Barney. He catches my drift and scratches his arse with his index finger. Which is better than the other way round.

“On the step now?” he asks.

“Yeah, my sweet is set and so I’m on spot.” So with that he gives me one on the down low and then he makes like a bunny. Two times in a row.

Next thing I go for a walk. On the way I audition a couple on the fritz and it looks like the mouthy mouse is gonna slug the dame. That’s a nuisance, what with me outta uniform, and instead made up like a Dimitri Colonel. It’s always like that, you’re not ready for the one thing and then the other happens. Still, no good deed goes unpunished so I amble over and take a poke at public relations. Well in the middle of a shout, with the gal all sobby, he suddenly sees me in the make and can’t decide where I should be. Then after a few words he decides he can’t make out where he should be either, and skeedaddles. I tell the donna it will be okay and to scoot home and set a grease fire before the firecracker returns. She thanks me and I’m off again to sightsee. Soak up the town.

About ten of the clock I’ve had enough of that and since my daughter has her final acting class about 11:45 I call in and tell em to skip the intros, I’ll go straight for the throat. Well, I drop two dimes on the patio and stroll on into the joint. Three of the big ones meet me, but being far more experienced than them I let my guard down anyway so as not to catch anybody off the floor. After one of em decides to wipe the walls to make a show, the other two skip me in to see the man.

Now there he is fatter than life and ugly squared. Still, the smell is tolerable so I sit down with a flourish and make the secret handsign. To which he stands up and salutes like his mother is there. Okay, so formalities aside I ask him if he’s prepared. It’s a simple enough question but where he thinks it’s going I have no idea because he’s flumstrusstered by the whole talking in words bit.

I repeat my lines in dog barks and that does no good either because suddenly his mutt runs in and her legs are freshly shaved. What the hell? Yeah, that’s what I thought too. So now that we’re all on the same page again you can see why I’m gettin annoyed. Not in the playbook, one ball, two strikes, and somebody is gonna hav’ta call for sunshine before a washout. And me without my secretary.

Since this ain’t going nowhere I decide to have a seat and let my previous sit down stand awhile. Now I’m impersonating both of em, which sounds a lot harder than it looks, especially with this crowd. Well he gets confused which is where I like to play when I’m the talker. But I ain’t saying nothing and so that’s the part that’s hard to figure, for both of us. As things stand and sit I decide to go poco a poco.

“Who you gonna call?” I pass the call sign. It’s a play on words but since he still can’t make out the game I let him catch a fly instead. Then he opens his mouth and it flies back out again. Getting tired of all this back and forth I settle on the sideways, which is always a good diagonal move. Well, a bit more of that and I tap my watch to show him that time flies when you’re having fun but all bad things must end by hook or by crook. Being crooked he gets my jive and smuggles something out of his number two monkey. I say, “How bout that,” and tip him the high hat, but with just enough parfume that he thinks I mean it to smell that way.

So Ooday and Coosay hold my hands as we walk out, just in case I trip and something drops out that can embarrassed us all. But that ain’t really what aggravates me about the whole thing. What really bothers me is that as I’m dedressing it suddenly strikes me that one of my socks is black and one deep, navy blue. What if I had been accidentally disemboweled and then cut up for square? The boys in the morgue would have spotted the foot hose thing right away and then where would I have been? It’s hard to explain that kinda thing and make it seem believable.

Which is exactly why I always come unprepared.

WHATEVER – From Human Effort

Not everyone needs to be doing the exact same things. But everyone needs to be doing whatever they are doing in exactly the same way – to the very best of their abilities.