Sadness upon the writer’s soul

LEO 1922b

Yes, it’s been a while..and I am back. YES!!

Last month, was a time of great transitions through rapid change. These happenings include a new job (clerking and stuff at a law firm), losing that job (massive sudden layoffs). Also, I held on to that other nightly part-time job at a local hostel, and ended that. From there, moving into a new apartment, for now. For the present moment, I have no job and more time. The writing streak must and will come back.

Meanwhile, I learned a few things that changed my outlook on life. I share them below.

First, coffee is a terrible addiction. Not so much the act of drinking  any caffeinated coffee, but the availability of gourmet and special blended coffee in Seattle. This lead me to drink in excess. Is there a name for this? Coffeeholic?

I consumed an average of five daily cups of specials, usually bearing a geographic origin, and method of creation. Example fav flavors I enjoyed included the Organic Maui Blend, Premium French Roast, Ethiopia Sun-Dried Yirgacheffe, Locations were often independent coffeehouses, and certain Starbucks bearing the rare Clover brands.  I craved the variety, with the desire to have something special inside, every busy day. The flavor and textures were nice, and I felt a satisfaction, of that special brew or blend.

And so, my preferences grew. I drank in the morning, during work, and after work I stopped before the sunset, so I could sleep later on. Coffee became my new candy. I craved and consumed constantly. I needed that caffeinated rush to survive my 12+ hour work days and to keep smiling. For the days that were less, I needed more done. So in that, I needed more coffee. If there was no time for coffee, i felt there was no time for work. I might be late.

More on this coffee consumption later. Next…

I have a new-found love for audio podcasts. Much of my new job was very repetitive, with lots in sorting, stamping, filing happening. Thankfully. I was allowed my musical imports through my headphones.The work was also a bit lonely at times. Music wasn’t enough, though welcome at times. So, I needed friends that could talk, but didn’t necessarily have to be there. So, through peer suggestions and exploring the iTunes catalog, I made some awesome discoveries.

Recent favorites of mine include NPR’s This American Life and Fresh Air, Junk Food Dinner, The Nerdist, Clarksworld Magazine, Art of Manliness, StarTalk Radio with Neil deGrasse Tyson, BBC 4, BBC Documentaries, and more. The countless hours of short stories, news commentaries, interviews, worldly views, local opinions, and reviews of the old and new..all as important to me as coffee.

In time, I must write and share more delving into the exciting sub-culture of coffee and podcasts. Now, I must share the most important of revelations.

This, refers to the title. Me and sadness, after writing often in the early spring and coming to a complete standstill. I didn’t have time to blog, to write, to share. In the last weeks, my focus on job work, job hunting, hustling for money, finding a new place. Sadly, no time for writing.

Yet, I could sleep, drink coffee and beer. I conversed with people, many random. I sat on the grass, ate tacos and gazed at the passing ferries of Elliot Bay. I did everything except for write. Why not? The time did come back after I lost my job.

I was frustrated, distracted with a mundane schedule. I remained busy, figuring out the summer and future beyond. There were nights, I would come back to this blog, or held my notepad with my lazy pen sliding down a blank page. I wanted to write, but drew a blank.  At a few times, I managed to give a few brief, sort of apologetic posts (see last few entries). It was all wrong for me, now I think.

It so happened, I needed help. So, I looked to a great inspirations in life; Ray Bradbury, celebrated writer of hundreds of books and short stories. His most well-known works are Fahrenheit 451Martian Chronicles, and The Illustrated Man. Personally, I more enjoy his short stories. For now, I stumbled upon my copy of his more autobiographical book of inspirational musings on our favorite craft: Zen in the Art of Writing: Releasing the Creative Genius Within You.

Here, is a certain truth he reveals early on in that book:

” Not to write, for many of us, is to die.

We must take arms each and every day, perhaps knowing that the battle cannot be won, but fight we must, if only a gentle bout. The smallest effort to win means, at the end of each day, a sort of victory. Remember that pianist who said that if he did not practice every day he would know, if he did not practice for two days, the critics would know, after three days, the audiences would know.

A variation of this is true for writers. Not that your style, whatever that is, would melt out of shape in those few days.

But what would happen is that the world would catch with and try to sicken you. If you did not write every day, the poisons would accumulate and you would begin to die, or act crazy, or both.”

Ray summed up how I felt, something I had trouble sharing with other humans in personal conversation. I died a lot in the past weeks, with no blogging, no scribbling of words on paper, even Facebook was cut drastically down. I just worked, and lived without really living. Ray Bardbury gives much great advice on coping and dealing with art abandonment, through many short stories and metaphors. Rather than quote him again, I will share my own metaphor..

For me, the lack of writing was myself crossing through some desert, with no water. I became thirsty. Yet, the sustenance was not available. Or was it? This water was there. I just needed to stop and take a sip, not necessarily a drink. So, I got up this day and decided to take that sip. The sip, became a long drink.


That felt good. I wrote a bunch of other things, not yet published. I will drink more. In reality, I may cut back on the coffee. Podcast listening will continue on, perhaps in my long walks. If you see me with my headphones, laughing..ask me what I am listening to. It might be for you.

My next post, I think will about a flea market and punk music. Til next time..

Roger Ebert, thank you.

Roger Ebert (extract) by Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert, the greatest movie critic of our times, passed away yesterday, April 4, 2013. He died of cancer at 70, just days after announcing his retirement from the movie review business. I have much to say on his legacy, so here goes..

What made Roger Ebert so great? Was that being his long time dedication since 1967, to reviewing movies? Or perhaps his fuzzy personality and witty descript? Or perhaps his open-mindedness to see nearly every big-screen movie no matter how mundane, stupid, or childish? Or perhaps his willingness to speak his own mind without fear on subjects including: video games (not art?), and politics (progressive liberal), or the act of creative writing..

“There is no such thing as waiting for inspiration……the Muse visits during the process of creation, not before.”

Overall, I think Ebert’s success is due from his ability to make each review personal. He does not consider what the current mob is saying or by identifying with the current Emmy snobbery . You read his reviews, and he makes his points by also reminding us of who he is. Sometimes, that could be a grumpy old man not quite connecting with a film’s target audience. My favorite example, being his review of Kick-Ass (2010):

“Will I seem hopelessly square if I find “Kick-Ass” morally reprehensible and will I appear to have missed the point? Let’s say you’re a big fan of the original comic book, and you think the movie does it justice. You know what? You inhabit a world I am so very not interested in.”

Ebert goes on in detail about why Kick-Ass reminded him of real life violence involving inner-city kids and its gratuitous shameless display of bloodletting (he is also not big on horror). I strongly disagree with his review on Kick-Ass, being that it’s just escapist fantasy and fun. However, I appreciated his understanding and willingness in the attempt to make a connection while sharing his personal thoughts on why the movie was bothering, affecting his review.

Then, there are reviews done that connected well with myself on the understanding of my own desires in new movies. Often, that calls for something different, creative and interesting. Also, we both seem to love intelligently written science fiction.

My recent memory and strong example is Ebert’s recent review on Cloud Atlas. This is a wonderful film, but not understood by many because of its odd and exhilarating editing style, switching often between six linked stories. Ebert said this in his review of Cloud Atlas (2012):

Even as I was watching “Cloud Atlas” the first time, I knew I would need to see it again. Now that I’ve seen it the second time, I know I’d like to see it a third time — but I no longer believe repeated viewings will solve anything. To borrow Churchill’s description of Russia, “it is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.” It fascinates in the moment. It’s getting from one moment to the next that is tricky.”

He goes on to discuss its bold style, and how the film itself goes beyond the story to a work of art. His review felt like a journey, that needed repeating because there was so much for him to appreciate and understand. I rushed out to see Cloud Atlas for myself and fully understood what he said. I felt a kind of connection between our love for this movie. Also, I couldn’t push others to see this movie, and the Internet mobs were much divided in their opinions. I think Cloud Atlas was a movie for just myself, Roger Ebert, and others who keep an open mind and welcome daring, creative approaches in storytelling. We can still hate the result, but at least understand and welcome the good in putting the product out there.

I always appreciated his choice in a personal favorite of mine, Dark City, to be his chosen best movie for 1998, and Being John Malkovich the year after. Both are great movies, also daring approaches in creative storytelling. Yet both movies, I felt were widely ignored and dubbed too weird by the masses to give them the wider respect they deserved.

That being said, I looked up Ebert’s thoughts on another daring movie for its time. This odd movie, peddled as a space opera with laser-wielding wizards, handicapped designed robots, with a reluctant farmboy turned galactic hero. Here is what he said in his review of Star Wars, back in 1977:

“The movie relies on the strength of pure narrative, in the most basic storytelling form known to man, the Journey. All of the best tales we remember from our childhoods had to do with heroes setting out to travel down roads filled with danger, and hoping to find treasure or heroism at the journey’s end..”

See? Star Wars is not just about special effects and crazy battles in the usual epic struggle between good and evil. There is so much more, setting the first apart and special from the following sequels and prequels. It takes an open-mind soul to look deeper into a popular film for what it really is. Ebert does that well.

And often, Ebert likes to have fun in his reviews. He reminds us, that some movies are created to primarily entertain. If he is entertained, we are..or at least, could be entertained. For example, his review of Speed, starring Keanu Reeves (1994).

“Films like Speed belong to the genre I call Bruised Forearm Movies, because you’re always grabbing the arm of the person sitting next to you. Done wrong, they seem like tired replays of old chase cliches. Done well, they’re fun. Done as well as Speed, they generate a kind of manic exhilaration.”

Also, Roger Ebert displays wit even when the subject film does not. This is often refreshing; especially in this modern age of ridiculous explosion-laden, cleavage display, CGI fetishes disasterpieces  Here’s what Ebert had to say in his hilarious review of Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen (2009):

“Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” is a horrible experience of unbearable length, briefly punctuated by three or four amusing moments. One of these involves a dog-like robot humping the leg of the heroine. Such are the meager joys. If you want to save yourself the ticket price, go into the kitchen, cue up a male choir singing the music of hell, and get a kid to start banging pots and pans together. Then close your eyes and use your imagination.”

And, here is my favorite burn for Tom Green’s epic monstrosity, Freddy Got Fingered, a movie Ebert hated so much he gave it zero stars in his review (2001):

“This movie doesn’t scrape the bottom of the barrel. This movie isn’t the bottom of the barrel. This movie isn’t below the bottom of the barrel. This movie doesn’t deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence with barrels.”

Rest in peace, Roger Ebert. That personal touch in your reviews will be remembered.

Also, thank you.

Write Hard

LEO 1922b

Writing is fun, but not always easy.

For the following, I share and elaborate.

I love to write, and engage often through this blog. I write for other online sites, usually through freelance and volunteer work. Then, the various social networks and message boards, of which I share my two cents on many subjects. There are also emails, chats, texts, etc. Overall, I strive for professionalism in my communications. Grammar and form are especially important.

I make mistakes. Most of the time, easily and quickly spotted. The rest, I feel shamed when discovered late. The worst of my guilty writing sins include the repeated overuse of unnecessary words, run-on sentences, subject/verb disagreements, the occasional apostrophe slip. Sometimes the typing and thinking are not in sync, words are skipped.

I edit myself a lot. Editing others is easier, I think. I find the more creative I write, the more edits needed. However, I fear for the missed errors and awkwardness. I develop new healthy habits, while maintaining my style. Lately, I strive to eliminate unnecessary wordage. I also work to shorten sentences and reduce paragraphs to their individual purposes. occasionally stop and write a standalone sentence, for special effect.

I especially enjoy doing that.

Don’t let personal writing pitfalls discourage from writing. Keep writing, no matter what. Have fun with your writing, and be creative when necessary. If you screw up, chuckle in your corrections. Maybe, dedicate and share a blog post on your developments. More importantly, learn and develop new positive writing habits. I do this constantly and enjoy this vital growth.

Also, learn from others. There are plenty of resources out there. My suggestions include style guides, reference books, writing exercises, peer advice. Consult your local librarian for good further direction.

Also, never rely on built-in software spell checks.

I conclude with a recently discovered blog from the New York Times online, written by their associate managing editor, Philip B. Corbett. It’s “After Deadline”, and examines errors in usage and style found in NYT newsrooms. There, is good advice on recognizing various abuses of grammar, spelling, style. For that goodness, click here.

PS, I welcome further advice and criticism. Bring it on.