Blizzard

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I write this from the middle of a blizzard, our second in four days. I don’t use the term blizzard lightly, but I live in a winter storm belt and 30 plus centimeter (1ft) snowfalls are common. The National Weather Service defines a blizzard as a storm which contains large amounts of snow OR blowing snow, with winds in excess of 35 mph and visibilities of less than 1/4 mile for an extended period of time (at least 3 hours). Being unable to see the road from a sidewalk is not unheard of. The image below is from two years ago.

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My life the past few months has been blizzardy. In August 2016 I somehow partially tore a tendon in my shoulder. I’ve lived with nearly constant pain since then. It is not intense pain but it wears on you. The worst part is trying to sleep. An arm hangs straight when I sit or stand, and the tendon likes that. But lie down and the arm wants to move sideways or backwards. Ouch. Most of my sleeps have been two-hour sessions, and I wake in stiffness and pain. I stay up for a couple of hours, try to write, let the pain dissipate, and go back to bed for hopefully two more hours sleep. I’ve slept six hours maybe three times in the last six months.

Lack of sleep is an insidious condition. It slows your thinking, your memory, and your concentration. Writing, editing, thinking, learning, exploring a poem, whatever I try to do is impacted negatively. Yet somehow I finished NaNoWriMo, Robert Brewer’s November Chapbook Challenge, have written at least a poem a week, have studied poetry, and have edited some of my novel. Short sessions. Even now my mind drifts back to my throbbing shoulder.

Then there was the election. The election affects my novel as my story is set in Canada’s political environment. It is a trip across the nation and explores various protests, the divide between left and right. It is not so much a political book, but it is. It was written when this extremist divide was more or less defined in my head. left likes this; right likes that. But now President Trump has thrown a bag of hammers into the political machinery. I struggle with trying to understand him, people who support him, and people who defend him. I struggle with the left too but on a more purely ideological scale. The question of whether my story is relevant haunts me, and it has hobbled my progress.

I think it is still valid, and in many ways I think my message is more relevant than ever. I’ve been through reader feedback and am now reading to myself aloud.  I am up to page 65 of 303 in my Word document, and I hope today I might knock off a hundred more pages.

Anyway, I wrote a poem this week after the last blizzard ravaged us. I had originally written it with longer lines, but it didn’t work very well. Too much wallowing image and emotion and not enough tension, so I busted it into short, tight lines. I had it all in one stanza, but I do have some logical breaks in scenery. I don’t know if it will speak to you, but it speaks to me. I have lived through at least one blizzard a year for the last 46 years.

Oh, and the shoulder is slowly improving. Motion is up, MRI was definite, and back to physio today if the storm lets me.

Blizzard

a biblical plague
snowballs from
the fists of God
smack you in the face
the wind sucks
the breath from your lungs
a frozen sneeze
spraying your world
the howling ghosts
of dead trains

slippery footing
hobbling
plunging bodies
shoulders lean into
conflicted heat differentials
slams you hard
into the boards
grabs your collar
throws straight punches
tight knuckles

a father and son
killed
the New Jersey Turnpike
doesn’t care
if you are hunkered and afraid
the raid comes
brave cower
the regretfully stupid
quantum motion
of infinite chaos

the day before
calm
wet and clammy
you could smell it
coming up the coast
throbbing temples
filled with supplicants
refugees
nobody lays claim to
a blizzard

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The front window view at 6:20AM

Where are you Mainstream Media?

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I watched Smerconish last night on CNN. And before you label me a Libtard  or a liberal lackey, and yes, I despise Fox News and the alt right, I am quite disgusted with mainstream media’s filtering the real Obama stories. I rarely watch any news on television anymore, and when I do, it’s usually Canadian CBC, CTV, or BNN. I like my news to be about the news. Stations like Fox and CNN should have the word News stricken from their titles.

Anyway, I like Smerconish. He tends to speak his mind, and his mind is very much in line with my own leanings: centrist, questioning all, and searching for the best. I know you righties cannot comprehend these concepts, so please stop reading before your brains explode. Except I am done with left-right bullshit in this post.

At one point he interviewed Mark Wrighton, chancellor of Washington University in St. Louis. He was a spokesman for 48 university heads who oppose the seven-nation ban. When Smerconish made the following statement, my hackles raised.

Who would we rather Iranians get their news and information about the United States from, their Supreme Leader or the twelve thousand who come here to study and go home to spread the word about the United States?

It is a valid point. It is a point I can relate to; because it is a point I have been making for years. People are the front line of foreign relations. If you can sway the people, you sway the government. You cannot sway the people by swaying the government first. This ban cuts off the cultural exchanges, it is a virtual wall that ensures prejudice on both sides will fester and metastasize.  Such a ban not only shuts off all grass roots reconciling but also spurs anti-American sentiment and terrorist recruitment. That this and other bans are bad is a no-brainer to a thinker and someone who wants a peaceful world.

I have been making this point not about students or immigrants but about emigrants. The United States has some 40 million foreign nationals (people with foreign citizenships), but it also has some 9 million citizens living abroad. I am one of these people, or I was. We live in foreign countries, live foreign lives, speak foreign languages, immerse ourselves in their cultures, collaborate with them in all facets of life, and if we stay long enough, we become one of them. We are the front line of spreading the ways of America to the rest of the world. We are plenipotentiaries with boots on the ground.

We should be treasured assets of freedom, democracy, and world peace, yet we are treated as criminals and called traitors by the Treasury Department, former President Obama, the dipshit lefties (sorry, but the idiot and his ilk infuriate me) like Chuck Schumer, and we are ignored by all mainstream media, like Smerconish who can rail about 12,000 foreigners but ignore 9 million Americans.

Under this latest lashing against refugees, we the 9 million are calling ourselves refugees. Some 20,000 of us handed in our citizenships under Obama and the floodgates are still open. The GOP has an anti-FATCA and pro-RBT platform, we think, but nobody has acted yet. There are also lawsuits, but unlike foreigners, we Americans cannot yet prove irreparable harm. Apparently higher standards are at play when the American government defends its money.

Our money.

Our fight is about fair taxation. We who live abroad pay taxes abroad. We pay taxes for services we receive. We pay income taxes, value-added taxes, and a host of miscellaneous taxes, depending on where we live. Through taxes we pay for every service we receive; except when we pay US taxes, we pay for zero services, because we do not receive any services from the US. We expats receive exactly zero services for our compliance. None. Zilch. Voting is a right that nobody should have to pay for (though I am not opposed to requiring residence), armed forces protection (lefties often claim I need to help pay for aircraft carriers, an for some reason they ban me from their closed forums when I tell them they are full of shit) is a nation-protection service, not an individual one. You help protect Canada, and I pay for that through my Canadian taxes. You may not be happy with the reciprocal services, but take that up with Justin. My roads, schools, retirement, protection, social services, military, health, and whatever else our government tries to do for us is provided by my Canadian system of government. And no, if the US Army comes to rescue us, that’s a separate, very expensive charge not covered by our taxes.

Taxation of its citizens living abroad by the USA, this citizenship-based taxation now enforced by #FATCA, is taxation without representation. America, have you fallen asleep at the wheel? Please wake up and think about this. You revolted from Great Britain because it treated you as tributary slaves, and now you do worse to your own? This is why we’re upset; this is why we’re handing in our citizenships; this is why Obama’s legacy on foreign relations and world peace is a sham.

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So what?

  • 160,000 coerced into spending billions to comply with FATCA.
    • $2 trillion in American exports at risk because now doing any business with Americans is toxic
  • Americans abroad
    • denied bank accounts and mortgages
    • cannot save for retirement
    • cannot save for child education
    • cannot invest in mutual funds abroad
    • cannot invest in anything at home
    • cannot own foreign private pension which severely limit employment opportunities
    • cannot buy an expensive private home
    • have to supply Treasury with all their (local to them) financial account details, including accounts of non-American family members, businesses, and NGOs they may have signing authority with.
    • are subject to outrageous penalties ($10k minimum) for non-compliance
    • have to pay exorbitant fees to comply with the incomprehensibly complex filing requirements (one million businesses have excessive compliance costs and makes competitiveness problematic)
    • [businesses] have to file social security taxes even though employees can never receive said benefits

Basically these 9 million, should they attempt to comply, cannot live as Americans at home and cannot live as foreigners abroad. As the US pushes harder to get the estimated 8 million to comply, this 20,000 is expected to grow exponentially.

And like most Americans,  many of us are vocal. We use our free speech to tell our neighbours how nefarious the US government is. We advise them against becoming Americans,  especially if they ever want to return home. Once you adopt the label, it becomes a ball and chain you cant easily unshackle. The US by treating us as criminals is hurting it’s own image.

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So where are you Mr. Smerconish? Where are you Bill O’Reilly, Anderson Cooper, Chuck Todd, Wolf Blitzer, that mouthy woman on MSNBC, anybody at ABC, CBS, or NBC; where is mainstream media when it comes to helping this nefarious problem affecting 9 million Americans? Where are the university chancellors? Where is the GOP? Where is President Trump?

20,001 … 20,002 … 20,003 …

 

 

Can we stop trying to grow our population?

Once again I read a Facebook plea from my mayor Don Darling that, “Growing our population in Saint John,” is a key success factor for our future.” It is a rather ubiquitous political stance. Former NB premier Frank McKenna wrote in the Globe and Mail a year ago, “…parts of Canada are dying for lack of population growth.” In Ottawa, a 14-member council formed to advise the Trudeau government on economic growth recommends tripling the Canadian population to 100 million people.

I am not against immigration; I am an immigrant. My wife is on a team helping a refugee family, and I help out. I am all for open borders, globalization, and economic well-being for all. But I am tired of us killing our planet.

Have you ever thought about the finiteness of our planet?  We have water shortages worldwide; we are very close to killing our oceans to the point of the only fishes it will support are jellyfish (enjoy your jellyfish casserole!); our air literally stinks; global warming is a fact; animal extinction is accelerating; and I could run on and on and on. The cause, while seemingly complex, stems from one simple fact — we are growing the human population base unfettered.

Did you know we cannot make iron ore? We can make oil, but we don’t want to yet. We can desalinate water. We cannot make rare metals. We can grow more trees, but we keep cutting them down faster than we plant them. We can probably grow more food in the ground, keep adding fertilizers, and … no, before much longer all our food will be hydroponically grown as all our topsoil will be dead. What is, what isn’t, what can this planet sustain, have we passed its limits: these are arguments that meet resistance. People oppose the thoughts we need to cut back; because we like our elite lifestyles and want to defend them. We want our children and our descendants to live in an advanced society where they can flourish. It is a noble goal, but can the planet support us?

Let me ask you resisters a simple question: how big is too big? We have 7.5 billion people now. What’s your cap? 20 billion? 40 billion? A trillion? An alt-right man argued to me once that we could fit the world population in the state of Texas; therefore we are not even close to maxing out this planet. In my opinion, 7.5 billion is way too many people, yet at the rate we are growing, in 100 years it will top 22 billion. Enjoy wearing your life-support suits.

In the 1950’s, geophysicist M. King Hubbert realized that Earth’s resources were finite and devised his peak theory to predict the lifetimes of its resources. Primarily applied to oil, it has been expanded to other natural and renewable resources. We will at some point exceed the earth’s capacity for human demand in many if not all categories: oil, iron, copper, food, air, water, minerals, etc. At some point, humans will stop growing because they cannot grow anymore, and at that point, it is more than likely that great reductions in human populations will occur. Laws of nature. Foxes and rabbits.

It might take decades, centuries, or even millennia to prove the finiteness of this planet, but we will discover that population growth is not sustainable, so why do we push it? Short term gain? Let our kids worry about how to feed themselves?

Saying we need to grow through population growth is lazy. Think about what you are really saying when you say Saint John, NB, or any other jurisdiction, needs more people for its economic well-being. Its area population base is about 100,000 people. You are basically saying any city with such a population base is too small to sustain itself. Sussex at about 5,000 cannot possibly survive. Bathurst at 12,275 people is a hopeless cause. Every other community around the world less than what, a million people maybe, is pointless. If population is so vital to economic well-being, then let’s merge Canada’s population into one single city: Toronto.

These are stupid assertions, but that is what you are implying when you say we are too small. We are not too small, we are too lazy. If it’s good enough for much of the world to live in small communities, then why can’t it be good for us? Let’s get innovative. Let’s put our heads together and find ways to be prosperous. But let’s not keep expanding our footprint on this beautiful planet; because it just cannot sustain us that much longer.

NaNoWriMo 2016 Aftermath – the novel

I wrote 50,091 words. It might be telling that as soon as I noticed I had reached the mark, I stopped writing mid-sentence. It’s not that I don’t believe in this story, but at 11:30 pm after playing trivia at the pub and drinking three 25 ounce beers, after being awake since 3 am and writing regularly throughout the day (5,109 for the day), including a poem, I was a bit tired.

My approach to this novel was entirely exploratory. I wrote three characters I could not normally relate to about subjects literally outside of my experiential scope. I am a 55 year old white male and I wrote about women’s rights; I wrote about a white, privileged, authoritarian, right-winged, American male and I consider myself a white, lower-middle-class, introverted, centrist truth-seeker; I wrote about a woman, a mother, who had sacrificed her career for money, who had sacrificed her dignity for her husband’s empire. for her family’s standing, but who worked through the years to escape the binds; I wrote a high school senior, a girl, who preparing to enter the adult world learns there are adult issues and that being a woman is in no way equal to being a man nor is it fair, but she does not see any reason it cannot be. I knew these people as well as I knew people on the news.

I know them better now, but I don’t honestly know them. I am happiest with my father and daughter stories. I am not so happy with mom’s. I won’t detail the issues or the stories, but Mom’s is rather hyperbolic. Her story pushes my boundaries, and my boundaries are quite malleable.

It is a story told from the three perspectives. Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury and Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible are both on my near-term reading list, both because of they follow similar structures. One of my issues is the interaction. Each character has their own story instead of being a single story. Dad and daughter interact closely, and Mom and Dad do as well, but Mom and the daughter not so much. I expect a lot of pondering, reflective writing (which this blog is), and planning over the next few months. I hope to attack it again in February, but I may never revisit this story.

The writing is mostly active. It is not particularly literary or deep; though at times I dig into more imagery and reflective prose. It borders more on YA than it does adult literary. It’s another decision I have to make: who is its audience? All of the above?

Anyway, here’s a fairly innocent example of Dad (and a conflict already raises its ugly head: he knows from experience he has to walk alone, yet he has rarely done so¿).

Why can’t that woman make a decent pot of coffee? Made fresh and tastes a week old. All you need to do is pour in the pre-packaged grounds and flip the water switch. Does she not clean the pot first? The regular coffee brewers are all in training, and Carl knows from too much experience with difficult clients that he needs to get away from his desk and think, get away from the office and let the insane outside world temper his disdain.

Carl wonders how his city looks so strange in the mid-morning, and thinking back over his career at Harris and Saunders he cannot recall simply walking the streets alone if it was not lunch time or dinner time. He has always been accompanied by his mentor Keith Saunders, his current aging partner, Keith’s brother Peter Saunders, a senior manager, or a client.

He feels lost. He knows the streetlights but only from the view from behind his windshield, raised, perpendicular and parallel, not these angular perspectives. The shops are strange. A Subway shop. How long has that been there? A foreign restaurant. Indian? Egyptian? Turkish? Its letters remind him of when he tried to teach his young kids how to write. Lauren caught on pretty quickly, but Michael took a few years. Boys and girls, they are so different. Carl looks for a coffee shop but can’t find any. Where do all these young hotshots go on their break? He comes to an intersection, looks left, and sees a large, brown coffee cup swinging in the warm breeze.

NaNoWriMo 2016 Aftermath – the poetry

Aftermath has been one of my favorite words ever since I purchased the Rolling Stones album Aftermath in the mid-1970’s. But as I write these words, I realize I may never have used it before; though I must have, somewhere.

November was a busy month. Not only did I start my seventh novel, but I also wrote 33 poems in Robert Lee Brewer’s Chapbook Challenge 2016. I remind myself that such events at not about quality; that quality writing is achieved by much rework. I know from experience that creating a good novel takes at least two years of steady work. I am also learning that published poets can take as long or longer to become satisfied with their poems. I am trying to feel neither good nor bad about either. Simply watching a local MFA poet work and rework her poems every Sunday morning and never seeming to see lights in her tunnels tells me I have to rethink my poetry writing processes.

I usually write my poems very quickly: take the prompt, try writing some lines until one sticks, build on it, and then make a few passes at it. This month as I wrote every morning I felt the urge to develop a poem-writing process. I have prose-writing processes, somewhat, and I will blog about them someday, but my poetry writing routine was too thin.

My searching first brought me to this interesting video. Some guy named Spectre walks us through his writing steps. He writes simple, straightforward lines. His first example is

My Video Games

 

It’s fun

I can beat it

Lt’s like a friend to me

It never refuses my progress

It’s not a poem but random thoughts, a random outline for a poem. He then beefs up each line:

Excitement for me

I triumph at it

It’s like a friend to me

That’s always prepare to go

And a bell went off in my head. This was around the middle of November, and since then, I’ve written such outlines for most of my poems and I am sold on this technique.

I was not pleased with Spectre’s randomness, though. If I take any subject and write lines as they come to me, I know very well I am going to miss things. I am only going to write what my active brain has access to. I have learned that prompting the brain can trigger ideas that such a focused exercise would never dream up. I searched for guidance and found it at this site. It is not so much poetry guidance a it is description guidance: a checklist for describing objects. I won’t go into detail here, but I began taking my chosen subjects: objects, ideas, situations, etc., and applied this checklist too them and wrote as simple sentences as I could.

One of the interesting side effects was that poetic lines would pop into my head. There is one truth I know about prose I did not freely acknowledge in poetry, and it is something I have already stated: the more you write about something, the more ideas flow on to the page, about the subject and about other subjects. I don’t know which poems they were, but on some days I’d end up writing about something completely different than my initial title. And it may not be a direct offshoot. Sometimes writing one thing triggers a second thing which triggers a third thing and so on, very similar to lateral brainstorming. And there is a host of brainstorming techniques that can probably all be applied to poetry writing.

I also read a now favorite poet I did not expect to become a favorite poet: Anne Compton. I read her Governor General Award winning Processional, and I loved it. I found her words and her style spoke to me, and I think some of my poems this month emulated her style. I can’t say much about her writing except that my enjoyment and sympathy came at the exact best time, as I was making forward progress in my own writing. Her book was gas on the fire. And I found myself exploring writing advice and processes online. A discovered a particularly important tidbit at Philosophy and Nonsense where the author suggests, begin and end each line with a strong word. I highlight his line because I think it is so true.

So I left November feeling much better about writing poetry: that I was finally starting to understand what I was doing and had created paths for getting there. I was largely happy with my poems for the month, and have been working at assembling a Chapbook to submit to Robert for his adjudication.

Here are a couple of poems I wrote which I used these new techniques to write.

Sin

It’s mine and will be, until I decide it isn’t. Regardless of what I say
I know you still love me. It’s what you do.

I didn’t join the club. I was a charter member.
We all join, sooner or later. He gave us all free passes.

It’s bound to happen. You don’t fold your hands.
You withhold your grace. Did you ever think of what I might have said?

Your wife is innocent. Be grateful for your love.
The girl is untarnished, so far. So much faith in righteousness.

The Sound of Money

He burlesques my musical ear
with his dollar store recorder
a pet rat under his hat
gives accusatory stares

You’re just a cheap bastard, but
I will play a song for you
I’ll pray a prayer, for us
for the offspring this world doesn’t need

He learned a new note
and it’s confused his song
can only play in tune on Saturdays
when the children are about

Here’s a free God Bless You
on your morning walk
salvation thrown away
halleluiahs donated

He’s almost the Jay-suhs prototype:
blessed are the destitute
ye who inherit
the inability to clean

I feel sorry for you in your suit
I’ve never worn shoes that would polish
Could you survive my grave and
play the sounds of money?

 

Next post: the novel.

November 2016 Poetry – PAD

While November is my primary novel starting month (25,435 words written through the first 17 days), I am also participating in the Chapbook Challenge, a poem a day event run by Robert Lee Brewer over at Poetic Asides.

I will be honest: I am putting nearly all of my energy into getting this novel on a good road. 50,000 words of prose is not a finished novel, not the first draft, not even close. But in my experience, the tighter you can make the story now, the easier it will be to finish later. It’s one of these things called paradoxes: two extremes with no logical compromise. I do want to keep it tight and in track, but I also need to ignore my boundaries and explore when the urge arises.

They call this urge ‘characters telling you what they want to do’ in your story. Right up there with other myths like women are unequal to men in every discernable way except for having babies and doing housework (I am writing about women’s rights, and I am being facetious, unenduring as my words are). The truer version is our minds are not linear, organized machines. They respond to input. Our minds are much more reactive than active, sometimes. The reactive minds are creative: throw a word, an image, a sound, a smell, a situation… and the reactive mind finds a new door and opens it. And if they are willing to step through, there is always a whole new world behind that door. The reactive mind become an artist: painter, photographer, designer, musician, sculptor, dancer… a writer, a poet.

Poems are created by walking through new doors but are also unexplored doors themselves. There is an element of craft to poetry, an element of care. Those first responses are first steps through doors, down new pathways, and they need further exploring. But my mind this month is wandering down prosaic doors this month, secondary pathways, ideas of white privilege and feminist movements and high school immaturity and searches for personal freedom without entrapping yourself in media prisons. I am writing first drafts of poetry this month, then abandoning them for my novel.

And then there was the election. In my mind, there’s a name for a person who cannot open doors in their mind. It’s a Republican!

Here is a collection of my poems from this month so far that might actually resemble poems. I’ll give the prompt for each.

Nov. 18, 2016
Prompt: write a poem that uses the following six words:

  • band
  • logic
  • pack
  • web
  • froth
  • clean

before coffee

a pack of lies bandied freely
as if authored in biblical times
unseen film directors and misguided preachers
it is now a fact-free, logic-free world
we live in a dream projected through the web of
rhetoric and fallacy
the land without physical filters
and Bubba tightens his tie and grips his shifter
clean living his myth
unclean politics his gift

steve-bannon-2

Nov. 17, 2016
Prompt: Paper

Background: some days you just want to have fun 😉

God made paper on day eight
An afterthought, a flick of fate
He made a mark with his feather pen
Invented glyphics over and again
The very first Ibis
Sat on the first papyrus
And Shat the first whiteout
On the very first script

egyptianibis

Nov 16, 2016
Prompt: Play (blank)

Go! We’re through
No choice, no option
No money for a cab home
My dice fail to monopolize
Fives and tens, a lone fifty
No hope of consolidation or peace

B&O and Water Works
The corner store supplies my food
Chips and soda
I can run water
But not was my clothes
Life is no fun
With cards stacked against

A community bailout
My only chance
A gift from the man
A lucky seven
Skirts disaster, again
But all I get is a ban
And do not get to pass Go!

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Nov 11, 2016

Prompt: write a description poem. Pick someone or something to describe

My Mug

My morning maw of motivation maintenance
A fire-hardened rock
A liquid lover that sips on life
A great handle, on the trends
It is essential, to my well-being
It is vital, to my happiness
I toast of tastefulness, I boast
Of wastefulness
A Saturday morning reading club, I host
My own internal parties
I get more out of it than I pour in
And it gets more out of me than I bleed out
Shakes me awake, yet grounds me
With its fragile weight

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Nov 10, 2016
Prompt: Tragedy

Background: I wrote the last line and asked myself ‘now what?’ I immediately succumbed to Thesaurusitis and looked up plan. I then saw the need to link each line, so I linked them into a story. This is not so much a freely written poem as it is a construct of form. Still, it’s a fun read.

The Plan

Your policy of sympathy, combined
with intentional apathy, implemented
by methods of rationality, coordinated
through arrangements of fantasy, stopped
since procedures for bankruptcy, tempered
his program of apathy, complicated
a project of gadgetry, intimated
her suggestion of jalousie, encompassed
in their system of stagnancy, concluded
the treatment a travesty, became
a strategy of tragedy

project-failure

 

Nov. 9, 2016
Prompt: Call Me (blank)

Background: this was more about my platonic relationships with women than the image of two old politicians bantering, but that’s what we might as well be. And I wanted to use the image I recently took in Charlottetown PEI of the two Fathers of Confederation named John Hamilton Gray.;)

Call me, when you’re free
We can chat, and pretend
We’re old friends
Catching up on, lost times
Times on the mend
No walks on the beach, for us
No bitters in the pub
Just a cup of coffee
And a warm muffin
We can be intimate
But we cannot be close
We can share our dreams
But not our secrets
We can agree, to disagree
On the pedigree of our lives
We will not jeopardize
This thing we call friendship
So call me when you’re, feeling down
For you know too
I will feel alone
As kindreds always do
Call me, I’ll be around

 

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The John Hamilton Grays

 

 

NaNoWriMo 2016

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This year’s story is inspired by an image a young female friend posted on her Facebook this summer of a young female acquaintance of hers who attended a Rammstein concert in Québec City topfree. Not completely. She wore electrical tape pasties. I don’t know how old she is, but a mutual friend (male) is 20.

A few things struck me. First, she had to convince security she was legal. Her post has since been deleted (a shame she probably incurred abuse) but I believe she confronted them rather sternly. Yeah! Second, I was there. I didn’t see her, and I didn’t attend the concert; but I was exactly where she had her confrontation outside the gates.

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Rammstein fans lingering around the fountain in front of the Québec Parliament building

 

My wife and I were visiting the city that very same evening . We were on our way to Toronto and I wanted to see the Parliament (my 2011 novel has a scene at the fountain). The property was all dug up and many of the statues removed, but we walked the grounds amid the crowd of heavy metal fans. The Plains of Abraham across the road were packed, and thousands more were walking up the hill to try to squeeze in.

 

 

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Somewhere out here a young Saint John woman is going topfree and having a blast

Third, I’d like to consider myself a fighter of equal rights for everybody. A woman, any woman, should be able to pull off her top and enjoy the weather just as any man can. Why they cannot speaks to the growth we have not yet attained as a  human race. It’s one thing for a young Canadian girl to do this in a large crowd in Québec City, arguably the most progressive North American city. It’s quite another to do it in America’s Jesusland where she might be severely ridiculed or jailed or in a Muslim country where she might be killed. Fourth, she was young. My research suggests most women who go topfree are a bit older. Not much but they are more mature, are wiser, maybe have worked up their courage over time. I don’t really know. I am a 55 year old white male with almost no credibility to write such a story.

My story is about a young 17 year old school student who goes top free. I am writing it in three parts: the father, the girl, and the mother. The same story from three points of view. I should be able to write the father okay, except he is totally not me and I am struggling with his words and actions. I consider myself open-minded, socially liberal (fiscally conservative), agnostic, and … meh when it comes to such things as nudity. You want to run around town buck naked? That’s how we used to do it before we left Africa. Go for it. As long as you keep your pecker to yourself. Listening and fighting with right-winged fundies has helped me, especially during this election season. I think I can see their binary, authoritarian, idiotic minds, but I really don’t understand them. When I write a man objecting to a woman breastfeeding in a coffee shop,  I feel like I’m writing satire; because I see absolutely nothing wrong with it.

Writing the girl scares me. I haven’t started yet. I have had discussions though with both young women and young men. I might be scared, but I am looking forward to writing her. My beta readers will have a field day with me. The tricky part is finding the situation where it can be accepted as natural, and not on a nude beach or behind gates and fences. Out in the open, in public, not in protest.

The mother I have yet to settle on, but so far she’s turning out to be a mess. She capitulated to her desires for freedom by marrying the young, white, privileged rich kid. Her life’s been easy but empty. She’s an alcoholic and … much more. She could be a lot of fun.

I don’t know how this will turn out. The first 5,000 words have me excited, but writing a novel is a long road. If it gets published — two more years at least before submission — you can read it and maybe understand what I am going through. If not, let’s just say I now look at women differently. I think I’ve always been pretty progressive. I treat women with full respect. I admire, appreciate, and am attracted to them as well, and there are battles. I’ve been raised with this religious-dominated view that nudity is desirable but wrong, attractive but repulsive. A bag of mixed messages. I think I have just about sorted myself out.

 

 

 

 

Novel Finished!

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As if novels are ever finished.

I have finished draft number 6 of novel 2011. A review: I start a novel every year during NaNoWriMo and have won that contest six years in a row. I spend the rest of the year re-writing these novels or working on other projects. Here’s a list of my novel WIPs:

Year – My Ranking of Potential (1 to 5) – Draft – Words – Status – Plan

2010 – 4 Stars – Draft 3, a complete story – 80,000 – not touched since 2012. Needs a setting overhaul and a major rewrite. – Indefinite revisit.

2011 – 5 Stars! – Draft #6 – 129,000 words – Ready for pitching – About to undertake a major submission agenda.

2012 – 4 Stars – Draft #4 – 130,000 words – Needs a story trim; much too much happening; needs a writing overhaul, a killing of bad habits. – Indefinite revisit.

2013 – 2 Stars – Draft #1 – 51,000 words – Need to find the tension. I have characters and ending but the plot falls down in the mud. – Indefinite revisit.

2014 – 4 stars – Draft #1 – 51,000 words – A Sequel to 2012; I really like this story and it could become 5 star – Indefinite revisit.

2015 – 1 Star – Draft #1 – 50,000 words – an attempt at writing in an additive style; I cannot function in this style, not solely – XXX

Undecided Upon

2016 – 5 Star! – Concept – 0 words – A story with social implications I am not sure I am qualified to pull off, but if I do …
2016 – 4 Star! – Concept – 0 words – A less defined story with social implications I feel more comfortable attacking, but the story itself is mostly undefined.

I’ve had to overcome some major writing issues since I undertook this journey, and I don’t claim to be finished. My writing has been a rebellious child.

I tend to write weak conversational sentences which overuse stage-management verbs: she looked, she saw, she felt, etc.. I also tend to generalize. I know the story, so I don’t need to write all the details. I don’t need them. And putting myself in my readers’ shoes has been a struggle. Even when I try hard, I tend to slip into the internal know-it-all mode. Yet whenever I read others’ writings, their generalizations jump out at me. It is a pattern I have yet to resolve.

I think I have figured out the tension and drama of sentences, paragraphs, sections, scenes, chapters, and stories. I have a series of blogs in progress where I elucidate my understanding of pattern in prose: the general narrative arc we so easily apply to story also applies at each sub-level. My daily reading and analysis of narrative prose has been a tremendous help as has my attacking of several writing craft books.

I think it is all coming together, finally, but of course it seems held together by fine threads.

This 2012 novel feels really good. At least it does to me. I have concerns how others will take it, and I have been mindful of the differences between my own thinking and the common person’s. I am an INFP who lives in his diffuse-thinking half of his mind and who easily visits all angles of an argument but has difficulty taking sides. He hates run-on sentences but sometimes uses them to demonstrate how he thinks. This novel has political implications, and I fear staunch wingers, left or right, may view this story as wishy-washy. Yet our world is full of wishy-washy people, and I might argue these people should run the world.

2012 is also uber-Canadian. You can’t get more Canadian than my story, and I mean that in every conceivable sense. I cant see the rest of the world reading it (especially Americans) and saying, “Wha?” Yet they will never find a better guide of our country 😉

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2017 is Canada’s 150th birthday. It’s going to be a hell of a party. My guts say this story needs to be out there for much of next year, and there’s only one sure way I know of doing that, and that’s not really the route I want to take. I’d rather a major publisher take it on and pump it out in six months rather than the twenty four they a lot new authors.

If they’d only read it!

Anyway, wish me luck on this journey.

 

 

 

 

Liberty’s Elysium

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Patrick Henry might be most responsible for today’s America. The American colonist lawyer and Politian was one of the more radically opposed to the Stamp and Townsend Acts, insistent on a Bill of Rights protecting personal freedoms, and a leader in making a clean break from England (War!). To the modern day USA, USA, USA American, he is an icon. Goulet Pens and Noodler’s Inks devised Liberty’s Elysium ink in honor of Henry. Goulet operates from Ashland PA where Henry was from.

I just purchased a bottle to honor my own newfound freedom, freedom  from America. Americans revolted from Britain largely over these taxes (Stamp and Townsend); CBT (citizen-based taxation), FBAR, and FATCA are my oppressive tax acts.

blind-patriotismIf you’ve not read my blog before and immediately see me as a hillbilly defending his still, please research the American expat plight. Please open your eyes to the loss of freedoms and liberties nearly nine million of us living outside the borders experience. Just as Americans left the British fold in 1776, I am a new breed of America leaving the American fold in the 2010’s. I have relinquished my citizenship and filed all my taxes. I am freer as a non-citizen than I was as a citizen, and by Patrick Henry’s calculation, I couldn’t be more American.

b_143346928712The ink is American Flag blue, more or less, and is used in Goulet’s logo. I love blue inks and have about a dozen bottles, but I don’t have any patriotic blues. I don’t have any blues that sing freedom to me when I write. I do have blues that make me smile when I write: I love my Bad Blue Heron, Eclat de Saphir, and Majestic Blue. But I wanted that perfect blue, a blue I could write a story or memo with, that would inspire me in whatever I wrote and would be agreeable to any person reading it, especially to me. I honestly don’t know if this is the blue, but I do love it.

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I am not opposed to paying taxes. I want community services and protection. I believe in paying a government to serve me. But I do not believe in paying a government that does not serve me in any way, shape, or form. I live in Canada and I get zero services for my American tax dollars. The right to move there is not a service, it’s a right. Military protection is not a community service but an international one (my Canadian tax dollars go to Canada’s military which in turn help protect Americans). I get nothing from America and I ask nothing, and like every other country in the world, I should not have to pay or file taxes with a country I don’t live or work in. The USA taxing us is clearly taxation without representation (a vote is not representation; service is representation) and by giving up my rights to return, I am free of the IRS tax burdens. My pending retirement and future business ventures are safe. My foreign family is safe. At least they might be in another ten years after this Draconian statute of limitations runs out. I have nothing to hide from the IRS, but their 76,000 pages of tax law make that a moot point. One is never sure if they are completely compliant.

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So I celebrate my freedom from taxation without representation with an ink representing personal Freedom. Every stroke reminds me what it means to be American (which I still am). Every stroke reminds me of my disappointment in and anger with my native land. Every stroke sing’s Patrick Henry’s words:

give me liberty

Writing and Drinking

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“Sometimes I write drunk and revise sober, and sometimes I write sober and revise drunk. But you have to have both elements in creation — the Apollonian and the Dionysian, or spontaneity and restraint, emotion and discipline.”

This quote is from Peter Devries’ Reuben, Reuben and not from Earnest Hemingway

I like to drink. I like the taste of beers, wines, and spirits. I like the sensations of tingling tongues and burning palates. I like the off-centered sensations. My mind works looser but not better. I feel freer to explore ideas, but almost always the result is crap. Writing and human relationship.

I think our brains are finely wired. Our Apollonian and the Dionysian modes are not independent but work in tandem. Each alone is almost useless. Alcohol sends us into this Apollonian mode, the creative world, but it blocks out the rational, focused world. Our thoughts and actions become psychedelic, not constructive.

I also have health issues that heaving drinking would only exacerbate and append. While getting lost in the netherworld of the bottle is attractive at times, getting lost from the world is not as pretty. Yet, I have decided to try to incorporate alcohol into my writing.

I am going to try to use finer drinks as a reward system: accomplish something significant, have a toddy. Some significant milestones include finishing editing chapters and scenes, revisions of stories, and of course any awards or publications (should that ever happen). Finish a chapter, celebrate with a shot of Writers Tears.

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Reading is also important to me. I firmly believe any writer needs to read and study what he or she reads. A writer cannot write that killer story without understanding the lessons of both published masters and clunkers. Reading is so important to me, I would almost consider a good old drunk for each book, but I’ll settle for a lone shot of single malt.

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I do not condone writing or editing drunk, and not because I think it’s evil. If you want to do it, go write ahead. But I know it doesn’t work for me. I am now calling bottles of spirits bottles of encouragement and each shot a notch in my pen marking success.

Bottoms up!