Tag Archives: reading

Clearing the cobwebs II

It is time for me to – again- clear the cobwebs of my brain and write about anything. Sometimes it is hard for me to focus creatively. I consider myself, first and foremost, a poet, yet I wonder if I sell myself short sometimes by limiting the genre that I write. I’ve been trying to change that a little over the last year or two by writing different things, some of which I share – some of which won’t see the light of day. It is difficult, because when I write here, I want to create something artistic. Yet, deep down, I aspire to some semblance of the “writerly life,” and I figure the only way to eventually get there is plug away, head down, and try to broaden my approach. I know the blogging world is filled with such dreams, and people who write about their struggles with their craft. What makes my struggle unique? I don’t know…It’s me and I am unique.

What I am thinking about

Earlier this year, I converted this blog over to its dot com domain.  I figured I have a lot of writing invested here and should work to keep it organized.  Also, I have recently been using the Upwork app to peruse freelance writing opportunities, just to gage what is out there and how I might fit in.  I’ve applied to a few opportunities over the last year, but have not gotten any nibbles.  I want to get my feet wet with a writing opportunity that isn’t necessarily driven by my own time-table just to see if I can get it done.  Does anyone else out there use Upwork? Do you have any advice about using the app or the application process? Are there any other freelance boards or websites that work for you?

The political climate in this country is making me ill

It started with me during the election of 2016 (like most people), and the elevation of rude discourse and name-calling and gas-lighting as debate, rather than research and fact-based discussion.  45 is not fit for this role as president and the Republican leadership shows no interest in trying to maintain a balance.  We have seen enough and need to put a muzzle on the current administration before any further damage is done.  Elections are coming up.  Do your diligence about learning the facts about issues from multiple independent sources – not just someone’s opinion or interpretation or spewed nonsense from 45.  And if you want to read opinions, select a balanced view – from both sides of the aisle – and at least try to understand both opinions  – and VOTE.

What I am reading

I am currently in the middle of a couple mystery/thriller novels:  The Alienist by Caleb Carr and Origin by Dan Brown.  This genre of novel is my wheel-house for reading. While growing up, I read a steady diet of mysteries (Hardy Boys, Agatha Christie, Ellery Queen) which lead to espionage thrillers from Jack Higgins and Tom Clancy, and later in my life, other mysteries/thrillers by Kathy Reichs, Steve Berry, Dan Brown, et al.  I enjoy the pacing in these stories and the details that get embedded in the books.  It makes me wish/hope that I could research and write a novel like that someday.  But mostly, I enjoy following the journey to solving a mystery.

What I am watching

I caught onto the new Doctor Who fever with the series premiere a couple of weeks ago.  I like Jodie Whitaker as the Doctor and I am still undecided on the companions.  As with all previous transitions to new Doctors, it will take a bit for the show and the characters to take hold.  Leading up to the premiere, I got to revisit old episodes and saw a couple of my favorites:  Blink, with the introduction of the Weeping Angels is still a top episode in my opinion.  The Eleventh Hour gave us the introduction to Matt Smith as the Doctor and Karen Gillan as Amy Pond, and is in my opinion, the best that the series has done with introducing a new character (two in fact, three if you count Arthur Darvill as Rory).  The Angels Take Manhattan, another solid episode involving the Weeping Angels – gave us Amy and Rory’s farewell.

Halloween Time

Tis the season for scares and bumps in the night.  I’m not much for modern horror movies.  The recent glut of slasher and gore movies doesn’t really appeal to me – and how many times can one antagonist (Jigsaw, Michael Meyers, Freddie) stay alive… AND how many times can someone remake the same movie (Halloween – Geesh).

Horror movies I do like include:  It (the recent theatrical release was awesome), Ghost Story (from 1981, starring Fred Astaire, John Houseman, and other legends – a great adaptation of Peter Straub’s novel), Insidious (the 1st movie scared the be-jezus out of my family – I haven’t bothered with the sequels) and The Shining (Stanley Kubrick’s film is, hands down, the best adaptation of a Stephen King novel – though I think the recent release of It has righted a lot of wrongs with Stephen King films). I recently watched Army of Darkness and enjoyed it – less scared by it than amused. I admit that I also enjoy the campy and understated horror of the Hammer Studio films from the 1960’s and early 1970’s.

Have a thought or opinion about anything here – leave a comment!  Thanks for reading.

John

 

 

Dispatching the Doldrums

It is time to clear the cobwebs and write about anything.  Blog writing for me is  a way for me to exercise my creative skills and (bravely) share what I’m writing.  Every now and again, I like to share what I’m thinking/doing/reading/listening to/watching.

Watching

A week ago, I just finished watching Band of Brothers on Amazon, which was based on the book of similar name by Stephen E. Ambrose.   I  know I’m a little behind ( it first aired on HBO in 2001).  But, I didn’t subscribe to HBO then, and never invested in DVDs of the miniseries.  Wow.  An incredibly well-done set of vignettes from the history of Easy Company of the 101st Airborne during WWII in Europe.  It was produced by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks – it has much the same feel as Saving Private Ryan.  Each episode centers around a different event and focuses on a different character’s perspective.  My favorite episode involved the Battle of Bastogne, and told the story from the perspective of Doc Roe, the company’s medic.  He displayed courage and a singular ability to keep going in bone chilling cold under relentless bombardment, while keeping the men is his company in fighting shape and providing care to the wounded.  The scenes are graphic and the emotion is raw.  The miniseries drives home the point, that in war- there is no rest.  Even when you think you may get a weekend leave, something happens to call the company back into the fray.  After battles, you move on to the next line.

Reading

I’ve mentioned before that I’m a slow reader and one who is prone to start multiple books to find one that captures my interest.  Right now, I think have five books in various stages of reading.  Most recently, I started reading Dispatches from Pluto: Lost and Found in the Mississippi Delta, by Richard Grant. It is a true tale, a collection of tales actually, of a British travel writer (Grant) and his girlfriend after they decide to buy an old plantation home in heart of the Mississippi Delta.  Stories of Southern tradition, along with the tenuous combination of gentility, race and class, are told without judgement – but with a keen perception of the relationships involved.  This book is a great look into this forgotten region of the country.  Truth be told – I am related to people who grew up in this area of Mississippi, and am very familiar with the themes of this book.  The Delta is a both a wasteland and a land of riches.

Listening

I have eclectic music tastes.  I will listen to almost any genre, depending on my mood and as long as it is well done.  In recent years, I have become interested in Americana/folk styles.  I like the realness of it and how it can impact you emotionally.  With that in mind, I want to recommend music by a friend.  I met Mark Currey in high school, when we both attended a Gifted/Talented Summer Camp.  We were in the choral program, and were introduced to many different genres of music in the program.  We were encouraged to be creative in our free time, and it was obvious that Mark was a songwriter even then. I wrote in my journal in my free time- ain’t life funny.  We weren’t best friends, but we got along well. After that summer, we parted ways (like most everyone does), only to reconnect many years later via FaceBook.  I found out he had recorded an album, his first, in 2017.  The classic story of the Late Bloomer – I can relate.  His record, Tarrant County, is part Country, part Americana – and I encourage you to give it a listen. Mark has a very warm vocal style (he’s a tenor), and his lyrics are real storytelling.  You can download it at the either of the links above, or you can find it on streaming services.   There are some really nice musical moments, some thought provoking lyrics, but never overdone.  You might find something you like.

Thanks for reading.

***

 

 

 

Opened

I’m having serious writer problems.

Nothing inspires me to write at the moment.

For the past 6 years, I have had a run of productivity that was enjoyable and creative.  I looked forward to the times I could sit down and craft a poem or write a quick blog post.  There was the period in 2014 (while job hunting) that I put together a chapter book of poems and I wrote about everything from gardening tips to snippets about life.  Heck…I even wrote a short story earlier this year.  I once told myself that I would never write long pieces – I didn’t have the attention span.  I probably shouldn’t doubt my ability like that, or make a big deal about “can’t/won’t do” something.  The universe typically calls your bluff.

I’ve been reading more posts lately.  It seems that many of my past favorite blogs have faded as well, so I’ve been searching for new things to read – and I’ve found a few.

The Haunted Wordsmith
Some prolific output in short fiction by a talented writer and engaging posts.

O at the Edges 
Mr. Okaji writes poetry in eloquence and brevity. I’ve been following him for some time now, and I aspire to the ability he demonstrates (and frankly, the output of poetry he produces).

Derrick J Knight
A blog diary of sorts. Mr.Knight is recovering from knee surgery at the moment and writes about his day. He has a beautiful garden.

One of my favorite blog entry formats is the list.  Other people’s lists are ways to get me to open my mind again and thinking of my own. Perhaps it will get me back on the path of writing.

Thanks for reading.

//John

Ceding

To write of writing seems so trite
and through this morning all alight,
composing and constructing rime
I seemed to focus all my time
on something sonorous and sleek
and this I cared to form and tweak.

Yet, I could not stay the sounds,
the ones that crack, the ones that round,
the ones that exhale in the wind,
the ones that rest and feed and sin.
I could not break them -though so eager-
then left for you, my reckless reader-

Something in the writing here
with devotion to the ear,
in the hopes that when you read
the music, timbre’d whole will cede
and capture from its hiding place
a flush – a sweltering embrace.

More snippets from summer

What I’m doing.

“On the first day of my summer vacation…I woke up.”

If you recognize that line, you are probably a child of the 70’s or at least a fan of Cheech and Chong (Sister Mary Elephant).

It occurred to me that my life for the last month has followed this essay format very closely. Should someone ask me about my recent work hiatus, and how I’ve spent my time, I would describe it this way.

I wake up and drink some coffee. I eat breakfast and job hunt on internet boards, send correspondence, apply for some jobs, and read a little news. Then I get a shower, and work on *insert home improvement project.* Occasionally, I realize that I am missing a key item and have to run to the mega-home-warehouse-store to find it.

Is that the same as going “downtown to hang out in front of the drugstore?”

What I’m reading

I recently finished Bee Ridgway’s The River of No Return, which interested me because of the time travel premise. There are some good things there: the notion of people having time-jumping ability, the historical period possibilities, and some of the characters are very well written. The backdrop of the story becomes more of romance than a mystery, and it unveils many compelling plot points that are never resolved. I am sure Ms. Ridgway is writing/planning to write more in this series. However, I found myself wanting to know more about the titular river (which is a major plot device in the resolution of this book) – which ends as more of an explanation. I like the universe that these characters inhabit and I love the background mysteries…I just want them to be more than conversational points in a love story. I’ll be on the look out for her second book in this series…and maybe my questions will be answered.

I just started Dark Matter: The Private Life of Sir Isaac Newton, by Phillip Kerr. Assuming I don’t get distracted by another book, I should finish it soon. This one is showing itself to be a good thriller.

What I’m cooking

Because I have more free time…I’ve been cooking for me and the missus. I’ve discovered that you can do many things with crescent roll dough – besides make crescent rolls. There are many layered “casserole” dishes you can make with an 8 x 8 baking dish and two packages of crescent rolls. My favorite has been layered smoked turkey with bacon and swiss cheese. Put down a layer of the dough and press together to make a crust. Add a layer of turkey (deli sliced), then bacon (cooked), then swiss cheese on top. You can also add a layer of sliced tomatoes in here if you so desire. Add a layer of the crescent dough on top. Scramble two eggs and pour half over the layered concoction. Repeat the turkey, bacon, and swiss cheese layers and top with the last of crescent dough. Pour the last of the egg over the casserole. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Cover the dish with foil (loosely), and cook for 20 minutes at 350 deg. in the oven. After 20 minutes, remove the foil and cook for another 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and let it sit for 15 minutes before cutting and serving.

Delicious.

And really good the next day for breakfast.

More Snippets

I was reminded this week that I could update snippets, those that I briefly discussed here back on February 14th. I did that because I felt like it, not that it was a regular featured aspect of this blog (most of which is just rambly poetry things).

What I am reading. I finally did finish reading The Monuments Men back in May. Interestingly, I read most of it while on a trip to Germany, when suddenly all the place names made much more sense. On the trip, my son, father, and I visited Neuschwanstein Castle, where one of the pivotal finds in the book takes place.

20140518_091951

I cheated a bit as well, since one of the in-flight movies was The Monuments Men. The book, as mentioned before, reads as a very dry account of events.The movie was a little better than I expected, given some of the luke-warm reviews that it received. I felt that it did a reasonable job of dramatizing, by combining some characters, making you a little more invested in their work and relationships. What you do come away with is a sense of dedication of these men, who weren’t soldiers and didn’t really fit in, but were very passionate about the art they were trying to save. And much respect goes to Rose Valland, who single-handedly collected information about looted art shipments while working at the Jeu de Paume Museum in occupied France.

So with that book finished, I have moved on to The River of No Return by Bee Ridgway. Billed as a time travel novel, it is something of an anomaly…at least to me…think of The Matrix, The Time Machine, Wuthering Heights, all rolled up into a historical fiction plot amid the political times surrounding the Corn Laws and Reform Acts in Great Britain, and about an unknown society of people who have the gift of controlling time.

What I am listening to: I am a man of eclectic tastes. Earlier this year I discovered The Decemberists and The Henry Girls. Very good working music…I’ve also become enamored with the soundtrack to Les Miserables, even the movie version in which everyone involved (even Russell Crowe) gives a very good accounting of themselves. And for another version, check out this video of the Santa Clara Vanguard Drum and Bugle Corps performing an encore of their 2013 version of Les Miserables. Very, very, nice.

What I am writing In February, I mentioned that I entered an essay contest. This was sponsored by The Center for Homeland Security and Defense. My essay was not selected among the finalists. You can read the finalists’ essays here. All are quite good and well-deserving of recognition. If you’re curious/a glutton for dry reading/ really, really wish to read my essay, drop me an email and I’ll send you a copy. I thought about posting it here…but it doesn’t really fit the intention of this blog.

In other writing, I am looking for other poetry contests, journals, online literature blogs, and am still considering how to construct a chap-book. I haven’t had any great concept ideas yet, but I’m still interested in doing this. I know I need a reader/editor to help me with this, and I guess I haven’t found anyone suitable yet.

Any volunteers can email me. 🙂

Now comes the part where…

We all make lists.

I like lists because they 1) help me remember things and 2) I have a sense of accomplishment when I can mark something off the list. This is particularly true with activities and goals. I like seeing a piece of paper with lines through items.

So with the new year rapidly approaching, I thought that I would put a list here on the blog…not that I have a tremendous following that cares. It seems like a natural place to put stuff like that.

Things I want to do better in 2012
So here goes…
1. Read more books, one at a time – I am a bad parallel reader. I try to read too many things at once. It doesn’t work. Best thing ever – Books on Audio for commutes.
2. Get more exercise – Yeah I know, this is used every year and I give up the ghost every March or so. Consistent, paced activity…that’s all I’m shooting for this year. I want to be healthy, shouldn’t you?
3. Make more money – I know that sounds materialistic. Be real, we all want that, especially in this era of poorly performing stock funds. Actually, I want to be a better steward of what I have been blessed to receive. In that way, it would seem like I am making more money.
4. Have some more poetry published – I do write because I enjoy it, but everyone craves acceptance. I’ve had one item published online (see links), and I’ve been notified that a couple of other poems will be also published online during the first few months of 2012. Stay tuned for more information.
5. Come up with a 10 year plan – I’m approaching what should be the twilight years of my career and I want to have more goals in my back pocket. New interests, travel, any ideas?

What about you? You hearty few who might stumble upon or follow this blog…:)

What are your goals? How do you feel about lists?

Happy New Year to you. I wish you the best in 2012. Work hard, have fun, and be safe.

John