Sunday, August 28, 2011

new story:

The Other Cheek

enjoy! comments welcome...
there may be a hurricane on the east coast, wind and rain lashing the coastal beaches, new york city getting afraid, evacuating, battening up the hatches, but here, it's clear as a bell, clear and warm, sunny, a little drier than usual, august gently turning to september, the worst season to the best. the students are back, choking the roads with bad behavior, interesting bumper-stickers, and older smaller castaway cars, the kind that are still running after a hundred fifty or two hundred k…a lot of young people in town.

the big news for me is that I've gone back to work, and this means I'm much busier, and my dreams as laid out in my last post go instantly to the back shelf while I leave what's left of my mind to do a sudoku, or something gentle, mild, easy. I wake up on saturday morning, make a big thick cup of coffee and then when that's done I go make another. the garden is bursting; lots of things are having a second life now that it's down below 95 in the days, so we can go out, pick vegetables, and enjoy flowers that go through all range of bloom in the peak summer days. the bugs are getting desperate though; not enough water to breed in, so they have to go looking for blood. I've lost a little track of the 13-year locusts; they made so much noise, there for a while, that you didn't even hear it, or hear anything else for that matter. and you see what's left of them, their shells, every time you get into a car. it's like they really want to drive, so they go right up to these car doors, but it doesn't quite work, and they die first, or maybe just leave their shell there by the car door while they run off and try some new form of transportation.

at the university all talk is about a possible strike, but also about the new change in logo, which heralds a new era, new chancellor, new image, new brand, etc. some people have bought into the new plan, and the branding, as a good move imagewise, others have noted that the university is spending thousands on image and taking money away from their own teachers. I've noticed two things about the images themselves, and about working on the web in general: if you like the good stuff they produce, like the clocktower image, you about have to steal it yourself and get it off their territory, because one way or the other, they'll take it, destroy it, move it, or forget about it. if there's any history or archive of siu webpages or logos, I'd like to see it, because my impression is that, electronically at least, the place has no memory, no sense of history, no ability to hang onto its own marks. and some of them were quite nice.

the clocktower for example had quite a bit of grassroots support, though it turns out that it got canned because people abroad mistook it for a church. it was the first picture of siu, so it brought to the world an image of the place, an idea of a physical building that represents the place. it's actually the place I swim; I swim directly beneath the clocktower in that image. but another thing that I like about the clocktower is that it said, high noon, as if to remind us, mighty small town, a little two small for the two of us, sometimes. any given two, in the midst of confrontation, could say, high noon.

but I'm not so much concerned about the rapid turnover in logos, as when they make older ones illegal, or simply throw away so much of what they make. this is not so pronounced this time; because of tough times I haven't heard of anyone saying you must get rid of that clocktower, but it didn't escape me that a whole swath of things I made with old banners became entirely dysfunctional, whether because of firefox upgrade or simply siu undermining its own templates, I don't know. it's obvious I have to take this stuff (old logos, cascades, etc.) and put them on my own territory…but that doesn't make much sense. better yet, just get out of there, and put everything on my own territory.

sorry to subject you to the random and disorganized ramblings of an old web hand; I'm like an old sign painter who is disillusioned with the televisionization of the modern world. people have moved in so that everyone has a big stake in the web, yet that has caused mass commercialization and conformity to a degree that the vast majority of what one sees is like everything else. in that environment something simple or unique could be called "folk art"…maybe I should embrace a new perspective and be like my friend Lee who brings simple exotic jewelry up regularly and sells it from a booth in the student center. you say, I'm here to say simpler is better, and plain is elegant, without a bunch of links dancing beneath your mouse cursor but we who are here know the links are dead or go to an athletic department that is ruled by an unsavory watcha-ma-callit kind of dude who would make you want to say, I don't link to people like that. it's a small town problem. you live here, you bump up against all kinds of people before it's over.

Friday, August 19, 2011

i have a number of scams up my sleeve, but all of a sudden school is starting and i'm pressed for time and everyone, at every place where i go, is asking for my personal time to generously volunteer in the coming school year, for this school, that school, or the very place where i work which should be, i suppose, my first priority. meanwhile it's back to 99/99 (99 degrees, 99 percent humidity which these days is called "feels like hundred eleventeen" or some such), and i'm driven indoors and here, by the computer, for my own protection.

a big school bus fiasco runs like this: new bus company promises they will take kids to school throughout the city; bus fails to show up in usual place for several days in a row; bus company doesn't answer the phone at the number given; school phone also puts you in a taped loop so you can't talk to a real person; bus continues to fail to show up and can't seem to give anyone a proper time to expect it; people complain but nobody hears it; parents give up & give their kid a ride to school. i guess that last one is what they wanted, but it's not what we wanted. so heads will roll, if someone will only answer my phone call.

so here's the scams. number one: 1. local media outlet: make a local media outlet that is somewhat like google: it links to all the local news stories, links to weather, links to good sports stories, links to any and all of anything on the web that has southern illinois on it. it's essentially a for-profit operation (relying on online advertising...does anyone make real money on those?)...but must also have a good name, good logo, sellable t-shirts, etc. so my name is SoIllEye (which would be pronounced so ill eye or so will I) but the name is negotiable. and it could be started in small increments, one story at a time, one link at a time. 2. saluki t-shirts which can also be re-envisioned as area t-shirts as the train man of carbondale would be one of the first to be so glorified. the idea here would be to make and sell graphic design of a kind that would glorify the area in the way i would like to see; thus there would be a new generation of local, so-ill pride that would or would not catch on (sell) depending on how well i pull it off. once again the main roadblock is time. i would be slightly worried about taxes here: do people pay taxes on shirts they sell on the street or in farmers' markets? probably, if they intend to follow the law. one could always make them "donation only" i suppose. 3. write! nice story contest; this one could have various iterations, like write purdy, write lively, write friendly, etc. the idea of a writing contest is that everyone contributes $1 (or some such amt.) and then the winner takes the vast majority (90%) of the pot; somebody just collates and counts judges' responses, and keeps or spends (on marketing) the remainder of the pot; the contest runs every three or four months, or perhaps every month, if a person could pull it off. it would require a pay-pal account (maybe?) or some such.

with a flurry of phone activity the bus crisis is now over; the boy is home for the weekend; the bus company and the assistant to the superintendent swear that we will have prompt and appropriate service in the new week. it is reassuring to know that someone somewhere will answer one's phone call; that they don't want angry parents out here in school-district land, entirely under served and with nobody to talk to about it. by going to the top, one talks to real people and gets some results, i guess.

the tomatoes and peppers rot on the vine a little, as it's too steamy to go out there and pick them before they turn, and they turn quickly, fall, get eaten by bugs, etc. the question is whether they will be damaged by spilled chlorine-water from a nearby pool. another question is whether this spilled water will be breeding territory for more bugs which already make it almost impossible to just sit out there. i long for minnesota, where good hard frosts have probably already resolved the problem. but where tomatoes themselves probably never get a chance to get fully ripe...

a new year; one son moves into a new apartment; new students arrive all over town. the dawg paws that they paint on the street to welcome them (i call them clues from an old blues clues video) are fading a little. maroon itself is not a great color to base your whole university loyalty scheme on, who can be loyal to maroon? i'm having a terrible time making a quilt out of it; i'm stumped. i'm ready to turn to pink and gray (as i have on my work blog), as at least those colors are a bit classy if not a perfect match.

i remain agitated. it's not just that i didn't get a decent novel to read until the very end of my break, and now that it's over, i'm inspired to write but have no time; it's not that, by spending lots of time w/kids, i can't do other stuff that i'd really like, in fact, i'm lazy on those other fronts, but have got good results from being a good dad, i'm not begrudging that at all. it's not that, in a small town, everything is a major hassle, even driving across town to school, and a person has trouble getting anything done. it's more that, when you get right down to it, i don't quite do well, everything i need to, to really move into the "scam" or the "writing" business, and really move out of this job that i just got oriented to, that i've been working for seventeen years now. it's a rough world out there. not a whole lot of jobs, not much of a future either, or economy, for this country, i'm afraid. i hate to be negative, but i see my children having a lot of trouble in the near future, and don't know where it will lead. i'd like to say, pick a country, and give it a try. here are some candidates: canada. zambia. peru.

or, take a rest, before i cook for a couple of starving boys.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

there was just a hint of fall in the air this morning; it was slightly cooler, and a huge fog set itself over the large park on sunset boulevard as I rode my bicycle early in the morning. by midday, of course, it was hot again, but nevertheless that little touch of cool air reminded me that fall was coming and invigorated me; it helped me get a little out of my languor. I grabbed a couch off the curb for a son who was moving and drove the others around with windows open enjoying the warm but cooler day, drier air. students are arriving in town; people are moving; it's a busy time. school starts next week; one wonders if they will repaint the dog paws on the city streets to show everyone it's saluki country.

around here there's an expression "same old same old" which means roughly, "same as usual," but can actually be used as a response to "how's it going?" and various other greetings. my kids probably picked it up from the television show iCarly, but they pronounce it "saymo saymo" and misuse it a little. It might mean, to them, "same to you", or it might just be a general insult, so that if older brother says, you're stupid!" younger brother might say "saymo saymo!"….such is life when kids pick up expressions. you get an interesting, ironic twist sometimes, listening to what comes out. the older brother, of course, knows exactly how wrong the younger brother is, and can even explain it pretty well, but the younger brother just gets enraged and anything the older brother says sounds pretty much the same to him; he's going to say what he wants anyway. so it continues: (ob) "shut up!" (yb) "saymo saymo!"….(ob) "that doesn't make any sense!" (yb) "saymo saymo!"

in these worrisome times I've taken to not even trying to write my novel, because there's no way I'd have more than a few minutes to click together to extend a thought or idea. instead I quilt furiously on a quilt for baby b., knowing that two more will inevitably follow for twins due in december. i've already met baby b., and told her to speak up if she needs anything, but that was hardly necessary since she has adequate lungs, and knows how to do that better than virtually anything else. so I've made a number of squares on this quilt, and I sew these squares together furiously, instead of actually trying to write something, or concentrate well enough to even read something. my wife, however, takes the opposite approach; facing equal stress (we both have aging parents in crisis), runs around and does stuff; she actually writes more, and also does more sorting, cleaning, taking care of animals, etc., flurries of activity basically generated by worry.

for some reason "national book week" got all my facebook friends to post the fifth sentence of page 56 of whatever book was nearest them, so that we in facebook land could now read some interior sentence of dozens of various books, from teaching manuals to lurid crime novels. my first thought was that, if this trend were to continue, that sentence would ultimately be more important in a book's promotion than its first sentence (people used to, when buying books, open them first and read the first sentence at least, before buying it). so, when writing a novel, I should build it around that sentence, so that one is the best or most zinger of a sentence in the entire novel. but the problem with that, as you will know if you've been through this, is that the author cannot predict from the beginning where page 56 will appear, and some of the other considerations, i.e. what kind of margins, how many pages altogether, what font, etc., will change how this turns out. in addition the author has to consider e-book versions, and whether to produce e-books: is page 56 the same on these? the facebook post instructs you to grab the book nearest to you but doesn't specify whether this can be an e-book. I am somewhat caught on these arcane provisions of actually producing books. I have written enough short stories to make several books, and have a memoir and poetry to add to it, but I have trouble with the e-production, and the paper production; it's not happening smoothly. in fact I'm quilting instead.

and then, it so happens, that the iCarly crew is coming through southern Illinois on a bus, and a bus with six people on it, the star (Miranda Cosgrove) among them, got into an accident, and the star broke her ankle. stranded in southern illinois, vandalia no less. this would be a little over an hour from our house, but too far for a weeknight jaunt, so we didn't try. but it brought up, once again, the subtle distinction between real and staged that is another theme of our watching the show. this show is the only one I will watch, invariably with the 6-year-old, and often we get into quarrels about when to stop and go to bed (I'm in favor of earlier, naturally). he seems to feel that anything advertised as "next" on the show will actually be "next" even though the show is recorded (invariably) and what is "next" is probably not "next". but what is this difference, "real" and "not real"? no point quibbling over it, really. saymo saymo. time to go to bed!

Monday, August 08, 2011

Saturday, August 06, 2011

new story:


enjoy! comments welcome, as usual!
when I got back from minnesota, a friend in the office gave me a stack of new york times that were already a couple of days old at the newest; I put them in order from most recent to oldest and set about reading them, until just about a day ago I'd gotten to the death of Betty Ford. I read about a lot of different things, the winter olympics coming to korea, sholem aleichem, etc. I read stuff that I ordinarily wouldn't have time to read. one article was about a high school girl in new york city who had, through facebook, assembled an excellent exhibit of the best young artists in the new york area. she was aggressive, got the word out, and pulled together one of the best art exhibits ever (just because people are young, doesn't mean they can't do art)…

then, this one made an impression on me. here's this guy, Lee Ufan, who goes out to rock quarries in search of the perfect rock. when he finds one he retrieves it or has someone retrieve it for him. then he places it in an art exhibit in front of, say, a steel plate, and calls it "Relatum" or some variant like "relatum – silence b". his art is renowned worldwide. He is a founding member of the "Mono-ha" (School of Things) school or art which combines "what is made" with "what is not made". Part of the idea is that the rock does things to the space around it and that becomes part of the art.

I saved this article and kept it by my side as other books, magazines and newspapers came and went. it reminded me a little of the cairns on the beach although in that case somebody was combining that which is not made, with that which is not made. but in my case the simplicity, the emptiness, was what I was after. when I got to Minnesota I'd taken pictures of the cairns, but I'd also set about skipping stones, sore shoulder or not, and by the end of vacation my shoulder was less sore, and rocks skipped easily along the water. now, back from vacation in the sweltering heat wave (which broke for a couple of days recently) I long for that simplicity, and keep the Lee Ufan article next to my little pile; it's the best I can do.

when the weather broke a little I got out into the garage, which is always five or ten degrees hotter than the outdoors, and sorted stuff out a little. if things go my way I'll hang license plates out there thus conquering it and making it a man-cave with a little character; that's my goal. it has been overwhelmed by junk that is out of my control for many years. I call it out of my control, because, being a large buggy, for example, a major expense, I'm unable to throw it out; yet, it takes up a lot of space, and makes it impossible for me to use the place for anything else. it should be possible, theoretically, to make shelves, and throw out a lot of junk, and store things such that a person could store a car in there, on a winter day. this would be my goal. but, I find that the times when I can get out there are times when I'm not watching kids in the house, or working. this usually means from ten to eleven, late at night, when I'm exhausted.

I have, however, been writing stories at this time. late at night, when the kids are in bed, the littlest one has fallen asleep in my arms (preferably before I did), the thirteen-year-locusts start up their screech, the neighborhood gets real quiet, and, if I have any ideas I've been chewing on during the day, out they come. I've been fairly productive on the short stories, though the novel is at a dead wash; I've also been working on the calendar, and may spring on some shirts real soon here. and I've started the quilt for the young baby granddaughter. more on that soon, and pictures, I promise, for those of you who don't come here through facebook, and already feel like, hey, enough is enough.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

New story:


Comments welcome!
things are happening left and right. a baby is being born to the family, but it has moved so much over time that it's somewhat wrapped up in its cord and they have to move fast. things will probably be ok but times are very stressful for everyone, especially those who are most immediately involved. we hang around on pins and needles.

it remains 97, 116 heat index, or something just as bad, or worse, and every minute outside makes you more uncomfortable, and you need bath if you venture out there even once. at night it's still warm and steamy and the thirteen-year locusts keep up with their continuous screeching, though you can see their shells on the tree bark in the morning as if they were all noise, they spent their whole bodies making noise. our little pool out back has been working well but now the water has warmed up so it's more like a warm tub than a cool tub, we might have to toss some ice in there to cool it down. other family dramas play out as, apparently, it's just a time of year when lots happens. some stories, I'm sure, are better not told; others may, in the course of time.

this is what happens when you experience a trauma. Your brain does what is in effect rolling up the memory of it, and the feelings that memory carries with it, in protective matter, and throwing the whole wadded ball as far from its main activity as possible. This is to protect you from reliving it and and re-experiencing all the emotions it engenders. This brain activity, a scrambled mess of neurons that represents your memory of a traumatic event, is quite active, in its protective little ball, and can be a heavy burden for years, but can also be broken down and reintegrated by alpha wave generation in the involved areas. Reintegration will make it more of a memory among other memories, and you will break down, hopefully, some of the protective tissue that isolated the trauma. you'll feel a thousand pounds lighter. but you have to know how to generate alpha waves, or have someone do it for you.

this came up in a talk that was arranged for other reasons, but it brought up the possibility that any of us have been affected by trauma in our lifetimes or deep in our memories, buried or perhaps forgotten for our own good. do you ever really forget a trauma? it depends, I guess, on how many you face in a lifetime. it is possible, I'm sure, to get used to them. impossible, but not necessarily good.

I've come to target my own body fat as baggage, parts of myself that I need to break down, deal with, let go of. exercise is difficult and it takes a long time to even work up a sweat, and feel like I've even lost a pound. worse yet is getting to the various corners of my self-image and reintegrating old memories, breaking them down and trying again to be ok with what they say about me. cutting back on the baggage seems to be an admirable goal in a place where it stays over 95 for weeks at a time, and it's so hard just to get yourself out the door sometimes. but I consider that a hallmark of depression: if you can't do the minimum of exercise every day, what does that say about you? that you're tired, or busy. or worse, depressed.