Friday, September 30, 2011

No Choice But To Get Backup And Try Again

Yahoo hates my story.

I've been working on a short story, titled Israel and His Father, for months now, e-mailing the latest progress to myself and backing it up in a dedicated folder.

As a rabid pack-rat, I keep every single version of a story that I've ever written - even after determining it to be crap and doing extensive rewrites - on the off chance that one day I may wish to go back and retrace the evolution of a story from genesis to completion. Am I deluding myself that I will actually do this? Of course, but that's not the point. The point is, Yahoo is deleting my drafts!!!

I checked the folder today, and all but the first two versions of Israel and His Father that I sent to myself have magically disappeared. What other explanation can there be than that Yahoo is reading the story as I send it, determining it not worth preserving, and deleting it? I'm crestfallen. I really thought the story was pretty good.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The more things change...

As I circled my children's school, hunting for potential predators ("taking a walk" my wife calls it), I saw a broken and discarded broom handle lying in the grass where, the previous day, there had been a whole and discarded broom handle. I thought to myself, "That really says it all, doesn't it?" Not only did no one (myself included) have the courtesy to pick up the discarded broom handle and throw it away, but the only thing anyone could motivate themselves to do when confronted with the presence of an old broom handle was to break it in half and leave it there for someone else to clean up. It's an object lesson on the state of America.

Then I began to question myself.

"Is that really what you believe?" I said. "Or are you just whining like everyone who's ever thought things were better in the old days?"

"Yes, I believe it!" I answered indignantly. "This country's going to hell in a handbasket!"

"Don't expect me to be placated by platitudes!" I responded with equal indignation. "What proof do you have that things were ever really better than they are right now?"

"I've seen old photos and I've read old newspapers," I said in my own defense. "And what about all the old movies and newsreels? I once watched a collection of vintage newsreels, and they were nothing like they are nowadays!"

"Think about it," I told myself. "What does that really prove?"

So I thought about it, and I realized that it proves nothing. All it proves is that the people keeping records back then wanted to emphasize the positive. It doesn't mean people were really different in any fundamental way. It just means that the people in charge were interested in promoting different things. What if things haven't changed at all? What if all that's changed is our focus?

If the goal of leaders has always been to control the masses (a safe bet, I think most people can agree), then what would have placated those masses back in the thirties and forties? Perhaps the idea that everything was going to work out; that government was on your side; that big businesses were driving the nation forward to a better tomorrow; that everything was going to be all right.

Now, bring into play the social upheaval of the sixties; the public exposure of the government's abuse of the public trust; the realization that maybe everything wouldn't be all right. Once people have been disillusioned to the point of cynicism, how do you control them?


Fear of loss. Fear of poverty. Fear of abuse. Fear of crime. Fear of death. Fear of each other. Ultimately, when people are afraid they feel powerless. Who benefits from a powerless populace? The powerful.

So maybe, at a fundamental level, nothing has changed. Maybe back in 1942, someone seeing something cheap and easy to come by on the side of the road (perhaps, in the era before Wal Mart, broom handles weren't as easy to come by) would have either walked right by without raising an eyebrow, or would have broken it in half and left it there for someone else to clean up. Maybe all that's really changed is that now someone will record him doing it on their cell phone and it'll show up on YouTube with the headline, "What Is America Coming To?!?"

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Take A Drive On The Wild Side

I've discovered the perfect old-truck music. Let me explain.

I own an early seventies Chevy truck that I affectionately refer to as my "American Machine" (a title it shares with an as-yet unpublished story of mine). I love it for several reasons, not the least of which is that I can actually comprehend what I'm looking at when I open the hood. My favorite thing about it, though, is the tape deck.

I don't have any tapes, but that's not the point. It's got a 1/8" line in for a portable CD player (a clear indicator of when it was the previous owner decided to upgrade the factory stereo) which I love, because it means I can plug my iPod into it and listen to all my favorite music while I'm driving my favorite vehicle. Sounds great, don't it? Sadly, it's not quite the four-wheeled utopia it might appear to be at first glance. The fact is, most music sounds like a cold poo when I play it on that system.

There's only one speaker in my truck. Well, one working speaker, that is. It's mounted inside my glove box and points straight down into the footwell. It has a bass range so inaudible as to be nonexistent, and it's the right speaker, so any instrument panned to the left is automatically lost. Further, all the buttons on my "stereo" (ha-ha) have been worn smooth with use, so I have no idea what they do. All of these factors working together have conspired to ruin most of my favorite music. The main guitar line in The Stooges' Gimmie Danger is nowhere to be heard. Half the rhythm section in Tom Waits's Clap Hands is inaudible. But fear not! All is not lost my friends! As I said at the beginning of this little brain-puke vignette, I have found the perfect musical solution to my auditory dilemma:

Lou Reed.

Lou Reed is perfect old-truck music.

Obviously, I didn't just discover Lou Reed. The discovery was that all of his songs sound great on my system. I don't know if that's because Lou connects me on a spiritual level to the seventies, thereby connecting me more with my truck, or if it's because Lou's voice just sounds better in low-fi; but whether it's the pre-Giuliani New York sax over the pre-Cobain three chord repetition of Billy; the brass blasts of Sally Can't Dance; or the colored girls going "Do, Do-Do, Do-Do, Do-Do-Do"; nothing else sounds as good coming out of that one downturned, broken stereo, no-bass speaker as Lou does.

The best part, though, is the way I feel when Lou's reptile voice is slithering out of that speaker and the wind is blowing across my back, the way it does when I have both windows down. In those moments, with the sun flashing in at me through the outstretched branches of late-summer trees, and Lou singing "Ride Sally, ride," in that atonal way that should sound like crap, but somehow manages to sound like truth - in those moments, everything just feels right. I feel like I'm just where I'm supposed to be, doing just what I'm supposed to do. Being unpublished doesn't matter. Being in debt up to my eyeballs doesn't matter. Being tired and irritable and on my way to work, knowing full-well that I'll have a raging backache by the end of my shift doesn't matter. In those moments, everything's cool. Even me.

Thanks Lou.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A Private Dick Is Hard Not To Poke Fun At

As I write this, there is a private investigator in my yard. Why anyone would want to investigate privates is beyond me, but it probably has something to do with that joke being so old it's petrified.

I can't go into the details of his investigation without exposing my knowledge of a recent string of alphabet-related murders in the area and painting a big target on my back, so don't even ask.

Seriously though, before he showed up my sister and I were betting on what he would look like. My money was on a stodgy old ex-cop type with a mustache, a cheap suit, a porkpie hat, and a stogie in the corner of his mouth. Needless to say, I lost to my sister when he showed up in sequins and a codpiece. Foiled again!!!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A Blogging Milestone or: The First Time I Blogged All Over Myself

Well, I did it. Against my better judgment, I started a blog.

It's such an ugly word. Blog. Sounds like a disgusting bodily function, as in, "I was at a party and some drunk chick blogged all over my favorite shirt." Actually, it might be the perfect word.

blog (blog) n. brain vomit.

So enjoy! Enjoy my brain vomit! It's guaranteed delicious and nutritious (or, at very least, vicious and malicious)! You're sure to gobble it up and ask for more! Yummmm!