Thursday, December 29, 2011

MATTERHORN the book / SURFING VIETNAM the book

I just completed listening to the audiobook version of Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes, having read the book about a year ago. This book's massive success puts to lie the little cartoon above. Yet, in a way, it is the exception that proves the rule. Matterhorn is more like going on deployment than reading a novel.  It is unrelentingly brutal but not even a pale shadow of the real brutality that was the Vietnam War--"my" war.


In response to several of Marlantes' observations, observations I myself have remarked on at times in my ravings to friends, I was moved to put out a second edition of my book, Surfing Vietnam. In this second edition, I wanted to underscore the fact that a real war was occurring half a world away, as my protagonist wanders through an America sickened and subverted by the lies and brutality the political war was spawning at home.


In order to heighten the reader's awareness of the real war, in addition to including seven military-style obituaries at the ends of chapters for male characters appearing in those chapters, that I put in at the last minute in the first edition, I began each chapter in this second edition with a pithy quote about war. Tofurther underscore the fact of the "real" war, I wrote an epilogue in which my protagonist describes a meeting in Paris with a highly decorated Marine Captain in Paris in 1975 who bears an eerie resemblance to the protagonist in Matterhorn and to Marlantes himself.

In the Epilogue, the Marlantes figure reiterates some of the observations he makes in his book. He exposits through one of his characters that there is nothing to steal in Vietnam. All wars are probably immoral, but some are also illogical. It is sane and rational to steal another country's wealth, land, gold or oil--not moral, but logical. Vietnam was neither moral nor logical. The double whammy of lunacy inherent in such a war and the government's attempts through intimidation, lies, and betrayal to rationalize and justify the lunacy were the seeds planted during the Vietnam War that are bearing fruit now in a country that is enslaving its own citizens, throwing out Constitutional Law, English Common Law and all decency in the name of fighting the so-called "war on terror" and preserving corporate interests.

I never set out to write Surfing Vietnam as a political polemic, but rather a worm's eye view of a society enmeshing itself in the lies and betrayals necessary to conduct such a lunatic war. Fighting a war in the jungle was not protecting NewYork from a communist take-over. The little brown men who fought like tigers and died like flies were not fighting for Marx or Lenin, but for a homeland that housed their ancestors and families and provided their livelihoods. One week in the jungle in combat would have persuaded Kennedy and Johnson,  Kissinger and McNamera  that the "principles" they were fighting for were just a load of bullshit Sophistry.

I would hope that some young people read Matterhorn and Surfing Vietnam. I pray they are not all as vapid as the young lady in the cartoon at the head of this blog post.


Sunday, December 25, 2011

THE MOST PRECIOUS GIFT

This blog was originally written as a letter to KLP on Christmas Morning 2012. 

It is Christmas morning and I am free this one special day from the terrors of lifting weights before dawn and can write at some length and drink a second coffee. I am alone, of course, and that is not the sad state it is for some people. I am not a "Christmas person" and haven't been since I was a little kid. I will not be one of those old folks who dies at Christmas because the sadness of being alone is just too much weight to bear on top of a chronic illness and the decrepitude of age. I will go when I go-I hope after a bout of rousing sex.

I have not written a blog for some time---too busy with other writing projects.  I have the time today to do one, but not a thought in my head, so I will follow the advice I gave you about writing and will write as though writing to just one person, in this case, you, and hope something comes.

I have no memories of Christmas morning as a child and getting that "one wonderful present". I have no memories that appear as cute little movies that I can relive in this blog, scene by scene in a sepia haze of nostalgia. I do have vivid memories of the Christmas tree itself, but not specific memories of it on Christmas morning. I think the Christmas tree memories are cross referenced to the smell of the tree in my brain and so remain fresh. The BB gun or bike I got at Christmas had no distinctive smell and so is lost as a memory capable of vivid retelling. I am sure I squealed with delight getting them, but I can not remember doing so. I would be lying, if I wrote about that.

I do have some adult recollections that may be worthy of a blog post, since I have no childhood memories of any note. When I was 22 and married to Myrna (the magically gifted artist who became seriously ill and "died") I was alone for the early part of Christmas day. I had come back to London alone from our experiment in living in Nova Scotia, my not having found any paying work there in six months. I found work in London within days of my return in early December, in a retail camera store and was living in a boarding house a few blocks from the store. 

Myrna was scheduled to follow me back to London on a a train scheduled to arrive on Christmas morning. She did arrive as scheduled and trudged through the snow from the train station to the boarding house, arriving at my room after noon,  covered in wet snow, with one suitcase and a big smile. What went on after that I will leave to the imagination, but it will not take much imagination, I am sure. I remember remarking, "This is the best Christmas present I ever got."  And it was. Poor as we were, we could afford no material gifts for each other, but we gave each other each other. We gave each other love. 

To this day, I believe I have never had a Christmas gift as sweet. I know it will sound cliched to say that the spirit of Christmas is not about the money you spend, but about what you give of yourself to those around you. And not on any particular day, but everyday…

We are social animals programmed to live in community, and aside from our own selves, all we have is each other. Christmas day is  more rewarding if we make it about rededicating ourselves to living in harmony with the other souls on this common human journey. And about remembering what has brought us joy in the past and trying to bring that same joy to the mates we sail with (so frighteningly briefly) on life raft earth.

James Hockings 2012



Friday, December 16, 2011

NO FINISH LINE ?

I began the third (fourth? fifth?) final version of my first and most serious novel, Surfing Vietnam yeaterday. After I complete this update, I am sure that this will be the final one. Nah, not really all that sure...

I was sure the other five times too. Sure...

The book keeps getting better, in the sense that it makes more sense each time I rewrite—is more an integrated piece. What started out as one short story that morphed into three short stories and then a series of linked short stories and finally a chronologically organized episodic novel, has always needed stitching and restitching to make it hang together. Finally, it seems I have found the super glue plot device to make it a real novel, and it is not all that hard a job applying the glue. The foundation or primer needed to make the glue stick was already there waiting. I did not realize the foundation was there until I started looking for it, tube of glue in hand.

I write intuitively, which means I am a neophyte using a euphemism for my own incompetence. I imagine all “real” novelists are plodders and planners—making outline after outline and lists of characters and plot points and story arcs. Sheeit... I do my writing using spit and duct tape and ignorance. And that works up to a point. There is a certain brash freshness to it that the old hacks lack, but it is far from efficient.

But how and when do I know when to stop writing it? This coming Sunday will be three years since I began this book. I want to have the rewrite done by then. It seems fitting to end on an anniversary date.

But...

Will I be writing about a Surfing Vietnam rewrite next year at this time. Stay tuned...

Sunday, December 11, 2011

THE LAST REMAINING CHRISTMAS GIFT--a personal story in sepia tones

This post was originally written in the form of a letter and I will leave it in its original form except for the signature.


Dear Karen,

It is cold and clear here as I write in the pre-dawn. Rascal-the-dog came into my bedroom at 06:00 and threw up loudly, waking me. I went back to sleep for a while, but awakened, after a few snores in the stilldark, thinking about Christmas.

It is real winter here, not just chilly late fall nonsense. The heavy snow has yet to arrive, but there is a dusting on the ground. The weather is frankly December-cold and not just November-testing.

Triggered by the snow and cold, unbidden but not completely unwelcome, I feel Christmas coming in my mind, even more quickly than it is coming on the calendar. Christmas, much against my atheistic will, finds a special place in my memory. I did not have a bad childhood, mostly, despite what you and my analyst think, and I do remember some fine fine Christmases--Christmases rivaling those served up by Dickens and even 1950's Coca Cola ads. They are all in my memory now, washed clean of all anxiety and negativity in the river of time. And decorated like a Christmas tree with adornments of pure goodness and magical light... Human memory is such a fickle and imprecise device, serving up what the psyche needs most at a given time and withholding unnecessary complications. So it is with my memories of Christmas.

My memories, tinged as they are with wistful sepia emotions, play themselves out as movies in my most visual mind. The movies take place in my childhood living room, with the Christmas tree set like a dazzling green jewel between the two ugly brown neocolonial arm chairs at the north end. Our family always had the best tree in the neighborhood. My father told me so and, as a child, I had no reason to doubt him. He mocked trees decorated by families lacking the fastidiousness necessary to properly dress a naked Fraser Fir, which species my father considered the only "real" Christmas tree, scoffing at people who bought scraggly Scotch Pines. He mocked and scoffed a lot as he decorated the tree every December 19, his birthday, which signaled the beginning of the holiday season for us in those days. Christmas did not begin the day after Hallowe'en, as it does now at Walmart.

His scoffing began where the decorating began, with the hanging of the lights. He scoffed at people who used those fat ugly lights that were rigged in parallel and only went out one at time, instead of the whole string going out as did our series-wired, but more aesthetically pleasing lights. Our series-wired lights were superior not only in that they were more slender , but had a subtly twisted shape, that more closely resembled a real flame and were connected to one another by only one slender green wire and not the two braided wires of the fat ugly parallel-wired light sets. He individually clipped each light bulb to the end of a branch in a perfectly upright position. "You never saw a candle flame burning sideways; did you?" and each strand of tinsel, which was made of a toxic blend of lead and tin, and which we carefully saved from year to year in a bid to economize, had to hang freely from a single branch and not touch a lower branch. "You never saw an icicle hang sideways; did you?" And two red balls or two green balls never hung thoughtlessly next to each other on our tree My father distributed the colors and sizes in a seemingly random, but archly conceived, pattern.

My mother and I were not excluded from the decorating process, but we did not hold design credentials that sufficiently impressed my fastidious father. Our initial role was to do exactly what he told us to do, until the telling become harder than the doing for my father, and my father gently banished us to the sofa to watch in guilty exile as he did the rest of the decorating by himself. It happened every year. We knew we were not worthy to decorate the tree and our just “punishment” was to watch from the sofa, inwardly sighing in relief, as my father performed the intricate solo ballet of gilding the Fraser Fir lilly. 

My father was not a harsh man, nor the least bit selfish. He simply believed that if something was worth doing, it was worth doing well. At the end of his “performance”, he charitably let me hang my two favorite ornaments on the tree all by myself, anywhere I chose. I always hung them low and in the front, so I could lie on my stomach with my head in my hands propped on my elbows and gaze at them endlessly as they reflected the macrocosm of the magical tree in the shiny microcosms of their polished surfaces. I believe it was in gazing at these ornaments as a child that I got my first glimpse of the aeternal.

I can only remember two material presents I received at Christmas as a child, and they are long gone from the inventory of things I now possess. Even the memory of those two particular things I do still remember no longer enchants me. The real Christmas gift, I now realize and the one I will always remember is my father's gift to me, given in his execution of his tree decorating ethic and how his honoring that ethic so faithfully and well taught me to respect the work I do and to do only work I respect. That gift will still be with me this year and will be with me on my last Christmas on this earth—truly a gift of the eternal.


May each and every one of you have had the fortune to have received a lasting gift from one of your Christmases past or may you be  in line to get one this year.  Better yet, give this kind of lasting gift to someone you love.


Faithfully,


Jim Hockings





Tuesday, December 6, 2011

TAKING RESPONSIBILITY--CORNER OF HOLLYWOOD AND VINE

There was a time when I thought I might get rich writing.  Later, I thought I might earn a living at it. Later still, I imagined my writing would be a good supplement to my income. Now, as a bleak and rainy autumn turns into bleak and snowy winter here in rural Canada, I think I might go broke supporting my writing habit.

It doesn't matter. No, it really doesn't.

I will not go broke because some idiot agent refused to rep me or some idiot editor refused to publish me or some idiot marketing manager refused to put any money behind marketing my book.  I will go broke because I have TRIED my best--in writing, editing, and most of all in marketing--wrasslin' with the enemy of all new authors: anonymity. (I can't find the key on my Mac to put devil horns over a word.)

I am DOING something about my fate.  I am not moping around my studio waiting for an e mail or the phone to ring.  I am learning new sales tactics and marketing strategies every day. There is a community of new or newish e-book authors out there in the electronic world who are willing to share hints and tips on blogs every day of the week. There is always something new to learn. Fighting is a far better way to die than withering away waiting.

Being powerless is my greatest fear. Being powerless in prison or  a hospital or nursing home, is my greatest fear, aside from being in intractable pain. Not having any (or much) say in my future success as a writer is not a path I could long tread. Paper publishing is that path of powerlessness.

E-publishing is the path of power, if perhaps, in the end, just as risky and unrewarding as paper publishing. No matter...  I get fresh hope with every strategy I try--every author blog I read.  And e books and audiobooks just sit there for years in cyberspace, waiting to be discovered. It is like a young actress being able to stand at Hollywood and Vine in front  of Schwab's Drug Store 24/7 for years on end, waiting for the apocryphal Hollywood director to come along and cast her as a star.

"Golly gee! I hope the seams in my stockings are straight when he comes along."

Friday, December 2, 2011

THE AUTHOR'S VOICE--KISSING YOUR SISTER


The phrase “the author’s voice” is often used in litcrit. It is an abstract concept, not lacking in validity or usefulness. “The author’s voice” as the subject of this musing, describes the literal voice of the author not the author’s literary voice.

Since my last blog entry a week ago, I have been involved in a project to record my written words as podcasts and audiobooks. Some time ago, I built a 100-dollar studio, which, for all of its cheapness, is totally acoustically dead. I bought a USB microphone for a hundred and a half and it is a magical device indeed—totally accurate and marvelously versatile. Combined with some studio-grade headphones I have had for years and my own truly sexy and expressive voice running my output through Garage Band on the Mac, I thought I had the project licked.

Weeeeeellll… no… Not exactly licked. The first book I am attempting to record has three main character voices and the narrator voice and six minor characters. It seems I have to keep them all straight in my mind or risk confusing the listener. “Is it the narrator speaking now or the Max character?” Sometimes they sound too much alike. Why do my female characters sound like transvestites and not real women?  Why do some of my men sound Southern and some not? Am I overdoing or under doing my black characters’ speech characteristics?

Throw in some coughs, swallows, snorts and pops and despite my wondrous voice and perfect recording set-up, the thing sounds amateurish. Combine that with the problem of my not yet being able to play GarageBand like an organ—the intuitive way I play Photoshop and Word—and I am stuck recording 5 minutes for every finished minute I am going to be able to send off to the pro sound editors who will polish and cut the work for podcasting.

Learning new skills at a certain age is… well… sort of like kissing your sister.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

MY LATEST VIDEO DESIGN PROJECT

 Here is the You Tube Link:
 MY PROJECT FOR NIKKI W


Doing a video from still and clips to music is an intense experience that fries my nervous system worse than taking pictures for money or scribbling a novel for a few hours a day. It feels like my head is a ball in a pinball machine that is running at double speed on auto-pilot.

On the other hand, I make more about 171,000 percent more money per hour doing videos than writing novels.  At times like this, I wonder if writing fiction is really the best way to fund my retirement.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

OCCUPY THANKSGIVING IN ORLANDO


I will be celebrating your Thanksgiving with my former countrymen tomorrow at the step-inlaw's-one-removed place in Tampa. Although from the looks of it, Floridians have little to celebrate. 

I received a passionate and extremely detailed and accurate Marxist analysis of the current state of the so-called capitalism in this country from the dis,dat, dem, dese and dose cracker-accented grease monkey who was fixing Karen’s car. He has owned the same shop in the same location since 1986 and has a work ethic that rivals that of any Japanese salary man. He had his $110K house re-possessed by the bank to which he had already paid 90K in mortgage payments--a house he had lovingly landscaped and renovated. His payment ballooned and he missed a few because of a cash crunch in his business, (some machinery broke and the bank had no money to lend him to buy replacement machines so he could support himself.)  The house is now for sale at 55K and he has raised the money  to buy it from the bank, but they will not sell to him. He is sure the bank will sell the house eventually for less than 55K to someone else.

He say there is only one bank in the world now and they own every government in the world--just buying elections. He says the US no longer makes things since they shipped all the jobs offshore and is printing fake money and passing it around in circles. He says ya gotta make real things you can hold in your hand that people actually need or you’re just a bunch of fakes playing with fake money. He told me there is nothing that can be done anymore. He's gonna buy a little trailer and a shotgun and move outside the city. He has been betrayed and is more sad than mad.

The Marxist grease monkey had Rush Limbaugh blaring on the waiting room radio. There is no Left and Right any longer, just those who are right about having nothing left. The "us and them" is not Republican and Dem when you're working 70 hours a week and homeless. 

He’s thinking of joining the Occupy movement, but can't take the time off work.

What in the hell happened here? The rats have taken over the body politic and are eating it from the inside. 

Monday, November 21, 2011

THE BEST BOOK IS THE NEXT BOOK

Instead of getting my head into writing the third novella in the Max and Molly Murder Mystery Series, which is my "job", I am dreaming of the next big two-year literary fiction project--a novel involving four historical, now dead,  icons of American music set in a plausible but fictional scenario. They are on a trip down the Mississippi River on Highway 61 that will end in New Orleans at Mardi Gras, where a serial killer is at work during Mardi Gras week hacking up members of the gay community.

I have enough research to know that all the events could have happened in the places and at the times the characters inhabit in the story line. I think, despite my ability to do research at the touch of a button on the Internet, that the project will involve another trip for me down the Mississippi to New Orleans, and my reading few dozen books on the characters and a few more on music of that era in general.

Oh, yes, writing this blog is also a distraction from my "job".  Maybe I had better stop.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

CHILD PHOTOGRAPHY and a new PEN NAME

COVER BY ME
I have just published a booklet on child photography. See above. It costs 99 cents on Kindle and I anticipate it should be a good seller, if only for the humor in it.  BUY  IT AT THIS LINK: Buy HOW TO PHOTOGRAPH CHILDREN

Doing this booklet was fun and easy, and I learned  new skills by reading the book by Kate Harper that I pitched in my previous blog.  In only 18 hours of solid work, I have designed an article for Kindle by hand. Writing, copy editing, proofreading, cover design, blurb writing, internal TOC linking, external hot-linking, image insertion, hidden bookmarking, MOBI formatting....  All in just 18 hours... And it looks totally pro on my Kindle. Perfect in fact... Well, still two typos... but...


Doing this booklet was a fun and easy break from writing fiction, which was starting to seem like work. I can't wait to do another article soon. I am casting about for a topic on which I know more than most people and I am coming up almost blank in terms of being able to keep it to 4 to 6 thousand words. I could do an article on family photography, but that would be more than 6000 words, more like a whole  book.


The idea I am toying with now as the topic for a second article is a humorous piece written ostensibly as a  consumer review of sexual devices. UNDER A PEN NAME! Stay tuned for the first article by Randy Rokhardt.



Tuesday, November 15, 2011

..........DO IT YOURSELF !

I will herein give an unabashed endorsement for a book I have not written. It is called:

How to Publish and Sell Your Article on the Kindle: 12 Tips for Short Documents by Kate Harper at this link Kate's Great Book


In five hours of practice, using Kate's Great Book as a guide, I learned to format my own Kindle MOBI book including doing internal links (to a table of contents), external links to the web, adding images, various size chapter headings, and paragraph formats.


The book also gives vital hints and tips on pricing, arrangement of content and lists of what not to do--all for 99 Cents.


I am busy writing an article on child photography, giving all the insider psychological tips that the camera geek magazines never seem to mention that 34 years of shooting kids has taught me.
It will be 30 pages and about 3 days of work, and I am positive it will (and this is the depressing part) outsell my literary books and also my fun detective series. I will report on my depressing intuition about sales later.


Right now I gotta write.

Friday, November 11, 2011

HOUSEWORK, WRITING, AND A NEW FERRARI

With no apologies to either writers or housewives…

This morning, I got up extra early to turn out some bread dough into parchment-lined baguette cradles. It was ready for baking, because it had completed a second overnight fermentation and rise, as is customary for a true Parisian baguette. I washed dishes, burned paper garbage, emptied the drainer, took the wet garbage out to the kerb, started a load of washing and made espresso—all before 07:00. I was privileged, compelled, and pleased to do all this because I am a writer—a neurotic writer and a seasoned bachelor.

I am privelged to do housework because I work at home in erratic fits and starts. I am not one of those writers that has the discipline to keep regular hours. I am at the end of year three in a ten year project to learn to write and to earn a good living from writing. Having no TV and no interesting substance addictions to keep me busy, I have to fill my time when I am not writing doing something. And if that something is mindless and productive and saves money, so much the better…

Housework is, by and large, mindless and repetitive; that is why housewives hate it. That is why writers love it.  It frees the “better parts” of the mind to develop character and hatch out plots. It is not as good as lying on the sofa dreaming up plot details, but that has its drawbacks as well, if you consider napping a drawback.

Housework also sets the stage for writing, because I find it difficult to work in a messy environment. And since I work in the house and can’t afford a housekeeper (see paragraph below) making my living quarters neat is a part of the writing process. Fortunately I am a both a guy and a mature guy (read: “can’t see very well anymore”) so I don’t need to do much cleaning because I have a real hard time seeing dirt. Dirt is so small.

I am compelled to do all this housework because, if you are unaware of it, let me remind you that writers are poor, by and large. Doing my own work saves money. Doing my own cooking saves even more money. Killing my own wild game saves me yet more money and allows me more opportunities to meditate on plot and character. I spent over 40 hours, motionless, staring at empty woods and fields before the first deer decided to walk in front of my bow.

Since I am proud of being my own housekeeper, I have never been interested in finding a woman to be my housemistress. I have always been looking for my ideal woman who is #1. : looking for a wife for herself and who is #2.: interested in supporting me in the style to which I would like to become accustomed.

I have certainly found my #1 recently, and as for #2—well—I may have to settle for settling for supporting my own self in the style to which I have become accustomed—poverty with occasional starbursts of extravagance. She’s a gem who likes my cooking and some other things about me that I do well. Who needs her meddling in my kitchen or buying me a new Ferrari every year?

When I start writing a blog, I never know where it will end up.  Part of the fun…

Saturday, November 5, 2011

...BEER, BLOGGING AND REMARKS ABOUT TROUSERS

Photo by me
The following was written originally as a letter to KLP (seen above).

You inadvertently gave me the topic for my next blog when you told me you were having trouble writing yours.

Art is the product of leisure. Humans did not make a lot of art until there were enough surpluses in the food supply system to allow for frivolity. Even writing a factual information-based blog such as yours requires what I most often call "staring-at-the-ceiling-time", because I do a lot of my writing in nap position on the sofa.. Other times, I write while I am walking or running, when my knees permit. 

Of course, writing is a job, but it is not always a job that is carried out with pen in hand or fingers on keys. That is the mechanical part of writing or rewriting. But writing is only a small part of writing, oddly enough. Art is the product of leisure, albeit a focused and disciplined leisure, sometimes. Typing is not writing; it is just typing.

No one knows where creativity comes from, but when it comes, the trick is to quiet the "noise machine" that is running constantly in the human brain so that the creative thoughts can fight their way onto the page. Only Zen Masters can quiet the "noise machine" totally, but the writer has to be able to quiet it down enough on enough occasions to let the creativity flow. It is a trick. And if lying on the sofa or running or peeling potatoes or taking a bath works, don't be afraid to leave the keyboard and pick up a veggie peeler or a bottle of bubble bath.

Once upon a time, I wrote a lot of poetry and some of it was excellent and some just maudlin school-boyish rambling, but during the one or two year "poetry period" I never wrote one verse unless I had at least one alcoholic drink in me and usually one and a half or two. After three drinks, the creativity stopped, replaced by the meaningless muttering of an alcohol buzz. Not one poem sober... I needed the alcohol to shut down the "noise machine" in my brain, but not to replace the noise with the inevitable  incompetence is inebriation. Now, writing prose, which requires more time than one or two hundred word poems, alcohol is not my drug of choice. since a good prose writing session consists of writing 500 to 1500 words in an hour or three--at least 300 words past the point of inebriation were I to be drinking.  An 88,000 word novel would require drinking about 500 liters of beer at a cost of about $3000 in money, buying larger pant sizes and getting a liver transplant. I know I have to suffer for art, but buying larger pants is a price I am not willing to pay.









Thursday, November 3, 2011

MORE A THAT SILLY WRITIN' ABOUT WRITIN' STUFF




In this here writin’ thang, I never experienced the early-onset hubris I did my first few years in photography many decades ago.  I never imagined any of my writing was good or great or (horrors!) perfect. I never needed to be ‘taken down a peg or two’ in order to get back to honing my craft instead of patting myself on the back. Oh, some of my poetry was first class, but great poems are sometimes a gift that falls into the hands of a modestly aware human who has the good sense to write them down before they go back to where they came from. Prose ain’t like that. Prose is a marriage—a way of life –and sometimes just a fu_kin’ chore like scrubbin’ the floor.

No, I never suffered hubris (in case you are to lazy to look it up, hubris is a Greek word for the ‘sin of pride’ {the kind that goeth before the fall, eh?}).  But I was starting to suffer from the sin of complacency. I thought my writin’ was pretty good and was slowly getting better and wasn’t that just peachy. Well… Welllll, yesterday someone finally had the guts to not be diplomatic about criticizing my ‘best’ book—Surfing Vietnam. It was not as though he wasn’t trying his best to be diplomatic; it is just that he was born without the ‘diplomacy gene’. And to make it worse, my critic was intelligent and picked out some things to criticize that I secretly suspected were weak (“the heartbreak of psoriasis”), but was just too lazy to fix. I was chastened, but not wounded or angry. I was not motivated by the chastening to change anything about anything—my writing style or plans.  I just filed it, under ‘chastening’ and was gearing up to forget it, as I am wont to do with chastenings.

Then (ta da!) out of the blue, another person sends me an e mail praising the hell out of my tear-ass funny blogs and asking me why the hell I don’t write novels that are tear-ass funny, off the wall, and obsessed with sex.  Golly, I couldn’t answer the question of ‘why not’, so I let go and started writing a new novel that was tear-ass funny, off the wall, and obsessed with sex. No plot yet, no plan, just free-form writing… That felt good to me.

I betcha it’ll feel good to the reader too.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

BLUDGEONED BY THE BLANDNESS OF THE BORG


I am in an airport. It doesn’t matter which airport. They are all the same. If the goal of all malls, strip malls, subdivisions, and fast food joints is to look and feel the same the world over, that goal has been achieved in the airport. These glorified bus terminals are the unconscious, yet intentional, archetypal crowning achievement of Western civilization.  One size fits all…

It is impossible to discern any one particular offensive feature of an airport, because there are none. Airports are completely inoffensive in detail.  It is the totality of the airport experience that is offensive. Endless empty spaces, brightly lit—efficiency encapsulated in a flavorless, colorless, odorless cocoon. There are no random acts of whimsy, no evidence of the messy hand of man or the benevolent hand of god in the design. Some great airport-making machine in an airport-making factory spit this and every other airport out of its neutral-colored plastic airport-spitting maw.

But it is the people processing policies that really make the airport the embodiment of modern Western civilization’s descent into a ubiquitous insidious mind-numbing colorless evil.  Saints and sinners, millionaires and paupers are submitted to the same unsmilingly democratic humiliation at security. We are forced to appear barefoot and stripped of all adornment when entering the technological judgment temple of "security". We pass through the arches to be measured by the wizard’s wand.  We are thus separated into worthy sheep or unworthy goats. Woe be to the goats.

None of these processes or procedures is carried out with obvious malice, but with quiet determined efficiency and not particularly well veiled threats. When we are enmeshed in these processes and procedures, we dare not speak, fearing we may utter the wrong words. We dare not make a sudden move or an exuberant gesture. We shuffle along, sheep-like and exhibit no emotion, taking our cues for our emotionless behavior from the emotionless uniformed acolytes who are our examiners and judges. Examiners and examined, we are all part of ‘the system’ and, as such, we may no longer allow ourselves to have personality, particularity or peculiarity.

I am in an airport. The loudspeaker intones, “We are now boarding rows 13 through 21. We are the Borg. Resistance is futile.” 

Sunday, October 30, 2011

.....WINTER IN FLORIDA--GATOR HUNTIN'

photo by me

Dear faithful blog fans in Ontario: I am in Florida. It is winter here now in this appendage stuck on the bottom right of the New Nighted States called Florida. It got down to 56 degrees last night. No, that is not hot enough to fry an egg of the hood of your car, it is just the funny way they have of telling the temperature. 56 degrees means it is about half way between freezing and room temperature. It is going up to 76 today, which is above room temperature a little.  The natives wear sweaters in the winter here and eat inside the restaurant rather than on the patio at 76 degrees. They are people who have lost all their innate adaptability to live in a normal climate.

And fat!  These people are fat, by and large and should be able to withstand living at room temperature outside, if the old saw about having to have some insulation to withstand cold is true. These people are so fat they should be able to enjoy casual dining on an iceberg. The only cold they can seem to tolerate is the 56 degree (those are funny degrees again, of which I speak) temperature in the malls and offices caused by what can only be the widespread and almost universal malfunctioning of the air conditioning systems.

Well, the gator huntin' is going well, anyway. Got me three big 'ums so far all gutted and froze and ready to fly back to Canada on Monday. Coming for dinner?

Friday, October 28, 2011

CIA VIDEO-10 INCHES AND PINK

Photo by me



Yesterday was my birthday. I was with my Sweet Petunia all day. She took the day off from her demanding job to be with me. The day started with a pumpkin cake for breakfast, baked by her new daughter-in-law (yummy!) and ended at the sex shop.

Now I am no stranger to sex itself.  I tried it once, and it didn’t hurt too much, and I might even try it again someday, but I have never visited a sex shop. My first visit yesterday was not my idea. I was born in the Midwest, into a rabidly moderate sect of Lutherans and attended a small Christian college (for small Christians). For the whole story of my youth, read my first book, Surfing Vietnam. I am simply not given to public displays of sexuality. For instance, my behavior riding the Gay Pride float at the Ilderton Agricultural Society Fall Fair Parade is extremely circumspect. I wear generously cut bib jeans and never make rude hip thrusts in response to the goading of goggle-eyed onlookers outside the pub. I am keen to demonstrate that I am gay-positive, but positively not gay.

The Sex Shop

It was night. The balmy late October air on the Orange Blossom Trail made me feel drowsy and safe as it streamed through the open sunroof of my Sweet Petunia’s sport scar. She was driving us home from our romantic dinner on the patio of the best restaurant in this here part of Florida. Suddenly Sweet Petunia hung a U-turn in the middle of the O B Trail and slid her sleek machine into the garishly lit parking lot of “Orlando’s Biggest and Best Adult Superstore”. My heart nearly stopped. My sainted mother’s face appeared in the glare on the windscreen and I heard her voice saying, “Try to keep your hands above the sheets when you sleep. You’re a big boy now and will be getting urges.” I saw the face of my old German Lutheran minister appear next to hers and heard his sonorous preacher voice intoning to us Confirmation Class boys his favorite passages from the 1912 Official Boy Scout Handbook—the ones that dealt with “self-abuse”—still, I believe, 99 years later, the definitive text dealing with that subject.

And there I was, in my sixth decade, with my Sweet Petunia, about to enter the hot red neon-encircled doors of the adult superstore. She parked between a big BMW sedan with heavily tinted windows and a full-sized black Hummer.  A “working girl” was patrolling her stroll on the sidewalk in front of the store, baring as much shiny tan skin as was legal, to the endless delight of the endless stream of traffic on the Orange Blossom Trail. I kind of knew from watching all six seasons of The Wire (twice) the kind of person who drove the kind of vehicles we had parked between—the kind of person who employed the kind of person walking up and down in front of the store. I feared that if we entered the store that that kind of person might snatch my Sweet Petunia and offer her employment, drugs with foreign names and a new wardrobe. But enter I did, clutching her shirttails with my sweaty hands.

The store reeked of artificial strawberry scent, that I later confirmed was leaking from the flavored edible undies packages that lined half of one super wall in the superstore. I was surprised that the store was brightly lit—glaring almost. I had hoped for a more subdued atmosphere—one with dark corners, perhaps, in which I might lurk while SP shopped for items I am too delicate to name. The bright lights, I supposed, were meant to facilitate the workings of the dozens of video cameras that infested the store, which I knew for sure were directly linked to the FBI, CIA, IRS, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. I envisioned the bored civil servants manning the monitors saying, “We got him now. Nailed the bastard… We always suspected that Hockings character was a f_cking pervert. Let’s audit his sales tax reports.”

After SP and I passed the clothing displays near the door, where most of the mannequins had bodies that put to shame the last three of Hugh Hefner’s wives, we came to two long aisles (four sides, seven feet tall) with nothing but vibrators and dildos. The overwhelming sense of inadequacy I felt looking at the size of the dildos and imagining electro-technical proficiency of the vibrators could only be matched by standing next to Hulk Hogan in the gym doing bicep curls with a pink vinyl-coated five-pound dumbbell in each hand. Yes, that inadequate…

The dildos seemed to have muscle tone. I can tell you that from my observations in the locker room at the YMCA that few organic male humans have muscle tone “down there.”
And as for inadequacy, in the face of the vibrators, well, you only have to ask a modern woman about the joys of technology compared to the sorrows of the organic. Let’s just say I used to read a lot of feminist essays in the 70’s and have never fully recovered.

Not finding what she wanted, my SP asked me to ask a clerk for assistance. Asked me to ask!
Real men don’t ask for directions when they are lost in the desert, much less for help in an adult superstore. Every item in an adult superstore should be intuitively or instinctively obvious to a man of the world. Can you imagine James Bond tapping the shoulder of a bored clerk in a sex shop and squeaking out in the tiny cracked voice, most befitting a pimpled pubescent school boy, “Excuse me ma’m, which one of these has the fastest speed, and which one can you safely use with a silicone based lube?” Pointing vaguely in the direction of 369 vibrators…

“I’d recommend this pink one,” she says indicating a 10-inch long 3 inch thick item with a lot of “muscle tone”.  “And it takes just two popular double A batteries, which I can give you gratis, if you exercise your option to purchase this quality device.”  An English major drop out from FSU working at the sex shop by night and writing a powerful feminist novel by day…

“How do I know it’s really quiet and really powerful?” I asked in my schoolboy voice, staring at the tassels on my Bass loafers.  I looked around for my SP for support in my questioning.  SP was at the end of the aisle reading the packaging of some devices whose function, I am sure, would elude me.

“I can demonstrate it for you.” She adds coyly.

“Gulp.” I said, and after a beat, “Have you tried them all?”

“No, sugar; I’d never make it to work, if I did that.” As she ground here massive breasts into my arm and smiled.  She made her sale.

I looked up at the video camera and wondered what the boys at the CIA were saying.










Thursday, October 27, 2011

NAKED LUNCH AND BOWHUNTING-- “See the clown Mommy! See the clown.”


 Photo by me
My former writing teacher, Susan Swan, respected Canadian author and public intellectual, has been posting on Facebook about the personal and the political. Remember the Seventies slogan: “The personal is the political.”  That sort of conversation… It is from that discussion that I was inspired to write this blog.

Decades ago, in my photographic career, an agricultural magazine, hired me to do the illustrations for a piece on a new factory-farming hog operation. What I saw (and I will not describe it out of delicacy), disgusted me so deeply, that I decided then and there to not support the hog industry by eating pork.  My pork consumption is very low and sometimes nil for months. I am not perfect in my resolve, but not bad.

I once visited a slaughterhouse. It was not nearly as offensive as the factory hog farm, because the animals there only suffer for minutes or hours and not for many months. I suggest a visit to a slaughterhouse should be required for small children before they are allowed to visit the magic kingdom of Ronald McDonald, under the Golden Arches.

William Burroughs wrote the book Naked Lunch. He defined a “naked lunch” as “a frozen moment when everyone sees what is on the end of every fork." Indeed.

I am present at the death of almost every animal I eat and am aware of what it takes to put meat my fork. I am not living in denial—denying the life imprisonment and horrifying execution of the pig in my Sausage McMuffin suffered.  “See the clown, Mommy! See the clown!”

Killing with a bow is not a pretty thing; sometimes it is downright gruesome, but it is not factory farming.  Field dressing and butchering is disgusting.  I hunt for meat because my meat is the very definition of free-range, and it is not as though the animal I kill was not going to die anyway, eventually, of something. The “something” is usually winter starvation and, just about as commonly, predation or a parasite infestation combined with malnutrition. No matter how briefly painful it might be for my animal to die from a broadhead at the end of my arrow, it is kinder than any other way that animal was going to die “naturally”, unless it has the good fortune to run into the path of a transport truck.

I know what is on the end of my fork.

I respect vegetarians.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

... "IN A RELATIONSHIP" ON FACEBOOK !!!

photo by Fred Hockings 
I am “in a relationship” on Facebook with a "named person".

As Facebook  is a public place (as public as any wedding) and as we have between us 254 “friends” that we have “invited” to the “announcement” of our  new “in a relationship”-with-a-named-person status, and as our photographs are now joined on the top row of our “Friends List”, I ponder what it all means in terms of the level and depth of commitment this requires of us.

In conversation with the “named person” last night, I threw out the suggestion that it meant about the same level of commitment as the giving of letter jacket in high school and she added that she felt it would be like wearing a guy’s high school ring on a chain.
We both agreed that is was probably not the same as getting engaged, but that it approached the level of being “engaged to be engaged”—a term I coined (or possibly borrowed ) in high school when I gave C. a real gold-plated cultured black pearl ring for Christmas. (C. and I  never did get engaged engaged, but then, we never had sex either.)

The “named person” and I are on a road never traveled—the road of  “in a relationship” on Facebook. We must boldly go where no one of us has gone before. Despite our different taste in music and the fact that we will never be able to share clothing, (She is a size zero and I am a woman’s 18; one of us is going to have to seriously alter our diet.) we have committed to working this thing out on a day-to-day basis, trying to move from our two current commonalities: liking dogs and liking same beer style, to a more fully realized multi-faceted level of intimacy. Meanwhile I have been looking for genuine gold-plated cultured black pearl rings at a good price.

I may also have to change my profile photo from that of me as a three-year old boy in a cowboy suit to a photo taken sometime in the current century. The cowboy photo makes the “named person” look kinda silly for being “in a relationship” with a man more than half a century her junior.  “Cougar” doesn’t even come close.

Friday, October 21, 2011

SURVIVING UR 4TH MARRIAGE--a guest post by Sasquatch

PHOTO BY ME

Rules #1.  Get a pre-nup.  Do this by assuring her that you have less money than she has (you probably do, since you have three ex-wives) and that you are doing a pre-nup to protect her.

Rule #2. Do not criticize her children or even comment. Even if they are convicted bank robbers or pedophiles, to her, they are still just innocent babies. On the other hand, gracefully accept suggestions she makes regarding your children; she is making them out of a concern for your and their welfare.

Rule #3. Do not tell her she is fat, unless you have done a really good pre-nup. Also you need not comment if she is losing weight.  If she is losing weight, she is either having an affair, planning an affair or has cancer. In any case, she will not be around much longer, so commenting on her weight loss is not going to garner you any long-term favor. Skip it.

Rule #4. Learn to kiss. Women like to kiss more than f_ck. Kissing can sometimes progress to f_cking, so it is worth the effort.  If you do not know how to kiss, rest assured it can be taught. Look in your local advertiser paper under “Services: erotic” or Google “escorts” in your hometown. Because hookers like to kiss about as much as wives like to give BJ’s, you may have to assure your sexual service person that you will use a dental dam during the lesson.

Rule #5. Never ask her for a BJ. When you are getting one and it is her idea or your birthday, act surprised and very grateful. Do not mention that the other three wives never did this. Mentioning the other three will ruin her concentration and she won’t believe you anyway. If she never gives you a BJ, see Rule #4, about kissing for suggestions regarding outsourcing the service. Learn how to clear the history on your browser and your phone when outsourcing BJ’s. Also see Rule # 1. about the pre-nup.

Rule #6. Never drive her car. Especially when she is in it. It is jinxed and will run into something within the first mile. She will never let you forget the accident, especially if she spills coffee on her suede pants when you hit the school bus full of children.

Hint #1. Learn to cook one meal, and make it a fancy meal. She wants to brag to her friends about your cooking, and occasionally show you off to guests, and the one meal that you have down pat should be enough. Do not learn a second, or you will be cooking full-time.

Hint #2. Show affection in public. Watch your dog piss on every pole and bush on his walk. Having you show affection to her in public is like that to your wife. It announces to all the bitches observing the show that you belong to her, even if she is not particularly interested in similar affection you display at home. That kind of affection is not socially useful, but just cuts into her knitting time and interrupts her favorite TV shows.

Hint #3. Lock up your old clothing. She wants to throw out those great pants you wore at your second wedding and the letter jacket you let your high school girlfriend wear to your swim meets. See the above section about dogs pissing on lamp posts.

Hint #4. Mark date nights on your calendar. You want to be able to point to physical marks on a physical calendar to show that you do indeed take her out frequently, when she says “I can’t remember the last time we went out.” Keep receipts as supporting evidence. She is truly convinced that you never take her out and you need to build your case in advance.

Hint #5. Sit down to pee. Women hate seeing pee drops around the toilet. She might even try to force you to clean them up. Humiliating!!! See the first rule about the pre-nup, when she tries to make you clean the floor. It is easier to sit down at night than to blast your eyes by turning on the light—particularly if you have been drinking. Japanese men all sit down, and they are still sexist as hell. Sitting will not make you girly, but it might make you Japanese. But here is the best part, put the seat up, after you sit down and piss. It will show dominance (women do not really like wimpy compliant men), and it will allow your wife to brag to her girlfriends that “my husband never splashes on the floor.” Her girlfriends might start attempting to kiss you in the hallway at parties when they are drunk. They will be convinced that you are a superhero. All this from just learning to sit and pee… Try it.